More and more Americans are turning from gas pedal power to muscle pedal power, leaving vehicles in the driveway in favor of hitting the roads on bicycles. Is it the rising numbers on the gas pump or on the scales that is causing a renewed popularity of the bicycle?
According to a study done by Rutgers University and Virginia Tech, there are several reasons for the increased interest. The final report, released in March, 2011, titled Analysis of Bicycling Trends and Policies in Large North American Cities: Lessons for New York" (http://utrc2.org/research/assets/176/Analysis-Bike-Final1.pdf) give some interesting as well as surprising insights.
* The number of American males who are turning to bicycling as a form of exercise and transportation is growing at a steadier pace than women. Surprisingly, fewer children in the U.S. are riding their bikes for pleasure than in the past.
* Cycling is most popular in the western states, both for recreation and commuting.
* In Portland, OR, almost 18% of residents use bicycles to get back and forth to work, either as their primary or secondary mode of travel for the commute.
* Between the years 1990 to 2009, daily commuters in the U.S. who relied on their bicycles for transportation rose from 0.4% to 0.6%.
* There are challenges in large cities that may prevent people from using bicycles, including the distances that have to be traveled, congested traffic and the noise and air pollution. This could be the reason that Chicago and NYC don't show much of an increase in recent years.
* Climate doesn't seem to be a factor in the increased bicycling trend. Portland, OR has a rainy climate and Minneapolis, MN has cold winters, yet both cities show an increase in the numbers of cyclists.
* Communities are recognizing the benefit of bicycle trails in parks and bicycle lanes along the roads. As cycling becomes safer, more people are able to enjoy the health benefit of the outdoor exercise as well as finding safer commuting routes.
* Financial status is a driving factor in the reasons that Americans use their bicycles. People who are turning to bicycles as a mode of transportation are increasing among those in lower income brackets. Bicycling for health reasons, exercise and enjoyment is becoming more popular in the population who enjoy a higher income.
This article is both inspiring and eye-opening. Between 1990 and 2009 bicycle use has seen a low increase. Viva La Bicicleta is here to change the numbers, alter the percentages, and get people out riding.