A recent statistically-valid phone survey shines some light on who is bicycling in Seattle, and shows some common barriers that keep people from cycling more.
The biggest number that jumped out at me: About 24 percent* of Seattle adults ride bikes a few times or more per year. 13 percent ride bikes a few times or more per month. 5 percent of Seattle adults bike nearly every day.
The US Census American Communities Survey shows that 3.6 percent of people in Seattle biked as their primary mode of getting to work in 2010. So this survey shows that far more people use bikes regularly for non-work trips and recreation.
The biggest barrier to cycling by far is step #1: Access to a working bike. Only 40 percent* of Seattle adults has access to a working bicycle, and white people are far more likely (43 percent) to have access to one than non-white people (30 percent). This 40 percent number is a significant drop compared to 2011 (49 percent of respondents said they had access to a working bike), and the reason for the drop is not clear (statistical anomaly?).
This is a huge argument in favor of bike share, which provides dependable access to working bicycles.
While men are slightly more likely to have access to a working bike than women (43 percent to 37 percent), they are twice as likely to ride it regularly. 18 percent of men bike several times a month or more, compared to 9 percent of women.
Of those who bike regularly, two-thirds bike primarily for recreation, while one-third bike to get to destinations.
Did you think that the majority of people bike primarily on trails, like the Burke-Gilman? Wrong. The most commonly-used facility type are neighborhood streets (a strong argument for neighborhood greenways!) followed by busy streets with bike lanes, then trails.
This is also a good argument for more on-street bicycle facilities in general. After all, trails can’t go everywhere.
Other than access to a bike, safety concerns are the biggest non-weather barriers to more cycling. More protected bike facilities and neighborhood greenways are among the best tools we have to remove this barrier.
The weather concerns suggests that bike advocates could do more to teach people what to wear in a typical Seattle drizzle. Perhaps we could also host a fender-installation and rain gear/fashion event of some kind.
You can see the full survey report below or download the raw data from the SDOT website.
* I calculated these numbers based on the survey’s result that 40 percent of Seattle residents have access to a working bike. So if 59 percent of people with access to a working bike said they bike several times a year or more, that means 23.6 percent of Seattle residents bikes. However, the “access to a bike” number seems volatile. Since last year’s survey found 49 percent of adults had access to a bike, that would mean 29 percent of people biked in 2011. I doubt there was such a significant drop in bicycling, and suspect that either the 2011 or 2012 number is off. We’ll have to wait until next year to see which one is more accurate.