And the #1 kit-wearing city in our everyday biking challenge is?

August 6, 2015

Sarah Braker, communications manager

Did this kit-wearing bike rider help Chicago come out on top this month?

The end of July marked the halfway point of our eight-month project designed to reveal the best U.S. city for what we call, “everyday biking.” If you need a refresher, “everyday biking” is casual, utilitarian trips around town. Our method involves cities across the country with bicycle advocates who are willing to spend one hour each month counting a particular type of everyday bike rider. From 4:30 — 5:30pm these cities are the epicenter of the everyday biking world.

Each month we search for a different kind of rider. Those with cargo bikes, racks, baskets, and in skirts/dresses have already been counted. Each of those categories is an obvious inclusion in this challenge, exactly what you might picture if someone asked you to envision an everday bike rider. This brings us to the July count, and what we were looking for might surprise you–for July, we counted riders in Lycra or Spandex jerseys and shorts.

Now, we know that you’re thinking that Spandex-clad bike riders seem to be the opposite of casual, and we hear you. It wasn’t an obvious decision to include this theme in the challenge, but ultimately we did for three reasons.

First, a vibrant recreational and racing scene is part of any top-notch bicycling community. Second, many people choose to do their regular rides (commuting, grocery shopping, etc.) in kits–especially for longer trips–and we wanted to make sure they counted toward the everyday biking title. Third, kit-wearing riders might be part of the way that people can encourage their neighbors and friends to get on bikes. For some, watching professional sports makes you want to sign up for a recreational league. Tuning into a cooking show makes you want to make your own pasta. Similarly, being surrounded by kit-wearing bike riders can inspire people to hop on their bikes as well, even for some everyday rides like running errands and getting to work.

Now that we’ve got that covered, let’s get to what you’re all here for: the data.

We had five cities participate in our count this month, Memphis, Chicago, Tucson, Atlanta and Denver. (Some bad weather prevented a few of the cities from getting us counts this month, but we look forward to a deeper field for the next four categories.)

When it came to the sheer number of bike riders wearing kits, the Mile High City proved to be the place to beat. Of the 322 riders observed, 78 people were wearing Lycra or Spandex kits. Here’s how the other cities fared in terms of kit-wearing riders observed:

The next number we looked at is the share of kit-wearers out of the total number of bikes observed. More than half of the 80 bike riders observed in Memphis were wearing kits, which helped them skyrocket to the top of this category. Atlanta went from second-to-last to second based on this calculation, making it a pretty big mystery as to which city would come out on top overall.

Finally, we reached the moment of truth. We took our two metrics (number and proportion) and graded each one on a curve. The top-scoring city in each category got 100 points and other cities got points in proportion to their own relative scores. Then we averaged the two equally-weighted scores.

Here’s how it came out:

Wow! This month was a squeaker for sure, but Memphis took the win for the top Lycra and Spandex-wearing city. How close was it? Just about half a point, .6 to be exact, separated these two cities. Congrats to Memphis and thanks to all the participants.

The end of summer is slowly approaching, but luckily for you all we’re only halfway through our Everyday Biking challenge. Here’s what you have to look forward to for the next four months of counts.

August: kids on bikes (passengers included)
September: business attire (jackets, blouses, ties, office-friendly skirts and dresses)
October: costumes
November: beards

Stay tuned and don’t touch that dial, because we are ever closer to naming our winning city. Will it be yours?

See all Protected Bike Lanes blog entries

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