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Who’s Riding Bikes in Seattle?

Quarterly bike counts tell us how many trips are made by bike in Seattle at various locations, but more information is needed to help planners determine the best ways to encourage more people to travel on two wheels, and how best to improve their trips.

Who is riding those bicycles? How far are they going? What affects their decision to ride? Why are they riding–are they riding just for fun or for exercise, or are they riding to get somewhere in particular, like to work or to the store?  Who is not riding and why?

Phone surveys of adult Seattle residents conducted in 2011 and again in 2012 provide some of the missing information, and are helping to guide the update of the Seattle Bicycle Master Plan.

Only four in ten residents have access to a working bicycle. Of these, 13 percent are regular riders, 46 percent are occasional riders, and 40 percent rarely ride. Of those who ride a few times a year or more, two-thirds ride for general recreation as opposed to riding to a destination. Older residents and non-white residents are less likely to have access to a bike.

The phone surveys comfirm that more men than women are bicycling, and that more men than women are daily bike commuters, while the very occasional recreational riders are more likely to be women.

Among residents with access to a bike, the most significant barriers to bicycling are the weather and how safe the rider feels.  Cyclists going to a particular destination are more likely to use a bike lane on an arterial street and are mostly concerned about safety, while those riding for recreation or exercise are more likely to choose a residential street or a bike trail that is separate from a street and are mostly concerned with the weather.  Hilly terrain is a significant concern for both.

Destination riders and recreational bicyclists alike are more likely to travel five miles or less, but one-fourth of the recreational riders make trips that average 10 or more miles.

More information about the phone surveys is available on SDOT’s Web site.