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Bicycles have never really disappeared from the American scene altogether, for almost every child at one time or another owned a balloon-tired two-wheeler. The introduction and acceptance in the United States during the 1960's of the lightweight European derailleur-equipped bicycle which allowed almost effortless hill-climbing provided an opportunity for many to once again remount the velocipede.

During the six-year period from 1965 to 1971., theo number of bicycles in use in the United States increased 61 percent from 32.9 million to 53.1 million. Since 1970, the bicycle boom has been even more pronounced. The Bicycle Institute of America estimated that there were 85 million users in 1972. For the first time in decades, more new bicycles were sold than automobiles in 1972 - 13.7 million versus 11 million. In 1973, 15.3 million bicycles were sold (14).

The reasons behind this large increase are many and varied. Apparently, a major reason has been the combination of increased leisure time and increases in per capita spendable income for Americans. The increase in bicycle usage coincides with the large-scale introduction in this country of the 10-geared "racing" bicycle. More emphasis on the environment and conservation of fuel have also been frequently mentioned as reasons for the great increase in bicycling.

However, recent studies that examined mode choice for different trip purposes showed that bicycles and motorcycles accounted for only 5 percent of the mode choice for the home-to-work trip which is the trip most commonly made (19). Recreation riding and riding for exercise appear to be the most frequent trip making purposes on a bicycle. The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports conducted a survey that showed bicycling to be the second most popular form of exercise (walking is first), and that 13 percent of all adult Americans ride a bicycle at least a few times a month (28).

It is possible, although not highly probable, that an appreciable number of commuter work trips could be made by bicycle. The National Personal Transportation Study reported that about 43 percent of all urban work trips are less than 4 miles in length (24). This is considered by many as a reasonable trip length to be made on a bicycle (8,15,16,33). A study conducted in Denver cited examples of more than 200 bicycle commuters traveling over 9 miles each way to work (27). However, environmental considerations, topographic features, dangerous traffic situations, and sometimes social pressures all act as deterrents to the use of the bicycle for purposeful trip making. Nonetheless, there is a small but growing number of adults who are regularly using the bicycle for work or shop trips.

Recent studies conducted by the A. C. Nielsen Company, of television rating fame, attempted to enumerate the number of regular bicycle users in the states of Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and the District of Columbia (4,5,39). Nielsen defined a "bicycle user" as a person who had ridden a bicycle at least one time in the year previous to the survey. This very likely could include many persons who rent a bicycle for an hour once or twice a year at the beach or a park. The results in all three states shoed an average positive bicycling response of 35 percent, which corresponded very closely to the Bicycle Institute of America's estimate of 37 percent (3). From these findings, it may be more reasonable to assume that, in actuality, very few adults use a bicycle with any regularity for purposeful trip making. Some experts feel that of the approximately 90 million bicycles currently owned in this country, perhaps as much as 50 percent are only taking up storage space in a basement or garage, or are used very infrequently, if at all (9,20). The remaining bicycling most likely consists of the child riding around his neighborhood, usually on the sidewalk, or the adult who uses his bicycle for recreation riding or purposeful trip making.


To include the bicycle mode in any transportation planning process, information and data similar to that needed for automobile or mass transit planning are required. Trip purposes, trip lengths, environmental considerations, and characteristics of the user himself are all items that would greatly assist any planner or transportation engineer in designing and providing facilities. Accident data may also prove very helpful in order to avoid certain designs or practices that may show a higher involvement or seriousness rate than an alternative approach.

It appears that, at present, the greatest bicycle use involves the elementary and junior high level child interested in neighborhood riding and also the recently attracted adult rider who uses a bicycle for recreation or, to a limited degree, purposeful trip making. While some studies in the last few years (10,31) have investigated the riding habits and accident involvement of the young bicyclist of school age, there is a paucity of similar data available with regard to the adult who also uses a bicycle on a fairly regular basis. This is due primarily because of the past history of very few regular adult riders. With the current emphasis on energy conservation, combined with this country's preoccupation with physical fitness, the adult bicycle rider has grown to represent a more substantial segment of the population.

The problem arises from the fact that many states and local jurisdictions are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in planning and constructing bicycle lanes and bicycle paths without having much, if any, information on the characteristics of the user or of his trips. Basic engineering and transportation planning philosophy should not allow this to happen. The bicycle boom and the resulting demand for some (any) action to be taken has reversed the process of traditional engineered construction by allowing implementation and construction without first looking at hard data and design requirements.


The primary objective of this study is to determine the habits of the adult bicycle rider (16 or older), who uses his bicycle on a regular basis, in order to identify characteristics of the bicyclist and his trips. To accomplish this objective, members of the League of American Wheelmen, the largest organized group of bicyclists in this country, were requested to provide information on themselves and their bicycling activities through means of a mail questionnaire.

A secondary objective is to compare the results from the national survey with a sample of regular bicycle users who are only members of a local bicycle club. If the findings are similar, then the national data for regular users could be applied, under certain circumstances, in smaller areas with a good degree of confidence, and it would not be necessary to conduct another in-depth survey.

It is not the intention of this study to provide :formation which would be representative of the "average" adult bicyclist in the United States today. As stated :earlier, the vast majority of adult owners of bicycles do not ride them on any type of regular basis. It can, however, be supposed that if transportation priorities and social mores changed enough in the future to make bicycle riding an attractive alternative mode of transport, the findings of this study may provide basic data that would be applicable to a much larger segment of the population.

For the purposes of this study, a "regular" user is defined as a person who rides a bicycle at least three times a month during any month he considers suitable for cycling. This number was chosen since many active cyclists may ride on tours or recreation rides only on weekends but still could total several hundred miles of riding a month and therefore should be included. The frequency of three times a month was used instead of four (or more) to allow a weekend rider to miss a ride due to weather or other activities and still be able to respond to the survey.

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