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In any planning process, before solutions or predictions can be developed, there is a necessary ingredient: facts, or data. Transportation planning is no exception to this requirement for data, and in the past, frequently half of an urban transportation planning study's budget has been allotted for data collection (18). These data can take the form of home interviews, roadside check points, parking lot surveys, postcard questionnaires, and similar techniques. Planning for the bicycle's return to the road as a viable means of transportation similarly requires information on the characteristics of the bicycle rider, his trip purposes and lengths of the trips, and where and when the trips are being made.

Literature in the area of bicycling has increased rapidly. Luebbers prepared a bibliography of bicycling material for the period 1957-1973 (26). This report includes articles from such diverse publications as Esquire, Popular Mechanics, and Civil Engineering. Another bibliography was prepared by the U.S. Department of the Interior that deals mostly with trail planning (42). As part of another report, the Pan-Technology Consulting Corporation included an 11-page bibliography that covers all aspects of bicycling, including an extensive section on bicycle safety (21).

There is a scarcity of data concerning actual mileage traveled by a regular bicycle user and his or her trip characteristics. A 1971 University of North Carolina study researched the riding habits and accident experiences of school age children (31). The subjects in this study, which was conducted in Raleigh, North Carolina, rode an average of 199 miles a year. More recently, the A. C. Nielsen Company, as mentioned earlier, conducted samples of bicycling activity in three different states (4,5,39). Nielsen, in addition to determining the percentage of users in a state or area, also examined trip purposes and the number of days ridden in a one-month period. However, only limited mileage data were collected. Hanson and Hanson of the State University of New York at Buffalo have reported on detailed travel data gathered in Uppsala, Sweden (22). The study used a self-administered travel diary kept by all household members over 16 for a five-week period. The findings show that about 300 randomly selected households from six predefined life cycle groups used bicycles to account for over 11 percent of their total movements in any typical week period. Over 21 percent of all trips were made by bicycle. No trip length figures were reported in the Uppsala study.

In the past two to three years, many studies, reports, and papers have been written describing the construction methods, materials, and design standards and geometric characteristics that will provide the "best" bikeway for the money (1,25,37). Criteria for locating bikeways are being developed, intersection redesigns are under consideration, and specific signing for the bicyclists use are being discussed (37,13,36). Other studies have sampled potential bicycle users to determine latent demand for bicycle facilities (7,8). While many times this latter type of data may provide a "feel" of what potential bicyclists may do if certain special bicycle facilities are constructed or improved, it also can often lead to unreliable results due to the subjectivity of the survey.

Current trends in transportation planning processes are leading away from the efforts to collect massive amounts of data and are emphasizing a more refined process, i.e., disaggregate data sampling (18). Disaggregate data collection is the process of collecting sample data in order to establish generalized relationships between variables that can then be applied in similar situations without having to collect basic data again. For example, the number of trips per household is directly related to the number of automobiles owned. This relationship, once determined from previous study, can then be used in similar undertakings, and trip making can be predicted on the basis of auto ownership. This reduces the need for a large home interview sample to be collected. Data on auto ownership are already available from other sources, such as the Bureau of the Census (11).

Unlike driving an automobile, which is a well-established part of the average American's travel patterns, bicycling is still, to many, a recreational pastime only, similar to skiing in winter or swimming in summer. A regular year-round bicycle user is hard to find. Because of the obscurity of this individual, data collected on the habits of a regular user may likely be subject to small sample biases and resulting skepticism of the findings.


This paper attempts to expand on past research by providing a disaggregate data set of travel characteristics and accident experiences, including mileage figures, of the regular adult bicycle user. The data were obtained from a sample of the League of American Wheelmen members. Members of a local bicycling organization, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, were also asked to respond to the questionnaire so that data from bicyclists belonging only to local clubs could be compared with cyclists who have joined a national organization.

The League of American Wheelmen (L.A.W.) was founded in 1880 by Isaac B. Potter in Newport, Rhode Island, as a club dedicated to improvements in road surfaces for safer use by wheelmen, as bicyclists were called then. The Office of Road Inquiry, the predecessor to the current Federal Highway Administration, joined forces with L.A.W. in coordinating these efforts for good roads. In fact, General Roy Stone, who was appointed as head of the road agency, worked closely with Potter in the call for improved surfaces. The annual L.A.W. membership increased to a peak of 150,000 at a time when the United States' population was less than a third of what it is today. Construction began on cycle paths around the turn of the century. While the increased usage of the automobile definitely reduced bicycle riding, the takeover by the electric railway of the side paths originally constructed for bicycle use played a major role in the decline of the bicycle (29).

The League membership declined rapidly in the early 1900's but interest was still evident due to the sport of bicycle racing, sponsored and supervised by the League. When the Amateur Bicycle League of America was formed around 1920, L.A.W. became inactive until 1965 with only some minor attempts at rebuilding. In 1965, the 200 members remaining in L.A.W. and living in Chicago, the headquarters at the time, decided to reorganize the group. Since that year, beginning with the original 200 members, the organization has grown dramatically to 4,500 persons in mid-1973, and to just over 9,000 in early 1975. L.A.W.*[see footnote] has projected a membership as high as 100,000 within the next two to three years. Promotional efforts by the bicycle manufacturers combined with the increased interest in bicycling are expected to account for this increase (20).

The Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) was founded in 1972 to provide a voice for bicyclists in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. WABA, since that time, has been instrumental in a number of projects that have helped make Washington a safer and more enjoyable place to bicycle. For example, they have provided user input to the highway department in determining hazardous river crossings for cyclists. In early 1975, WABA had a membership of almost 1,000 persons (34).


Conventional transportation studies concerned with travel and trip characteristics of a group of travelers or potential travelers usually involve a detailed interview survey of a random sample of the individuals under study. This method was chosen as the most advantageous for the purpose of this study. Because the regular bicycle user would be hard to locate in substantial number in any one area for the purpose of collecting enough data for reliability, the nationally recognized and largest bicycling organization in the country was selected to provide the sample.

League members were not chosen to represent the typical American bicyclist of today. This would be a gross misrepresentation of the facts. Instead, L.A.W. cyclists were asked to provide information on their cycling habits and accident experiences because of three reasons. One, they represent the largest organized group of bicyclists that could be reached in an orderly and efficient process through a mailback questionnaire. Two, because the membership had increased so dramatically in the last two to three years, the researcher hoped that many of the members were also new to bicycling, and therefore might have different riding patterns arid accident involvement rates than older members. Third, as a further result of the premise that many new members were new to bicycling also, it might be easily assumed that their riding characteristics and purposes might very well reflect to what a person beginning to cycle, or considering it, might correspond.

The Washington Area Bicyclist Association was used in order to obtain samples from members of a bicycle organization that were not members of a national group. Each person sent the questionnaire was asked if he or she was a member of a national club. If the response was yes, their data were not used in the analysis.

In general, the study design for this investigation consists of four broad phases, namely: (1) defining the problem, (2) collecting the data, (3) analyzing the data, and (4) preparing summary statistics usable by the transportation planning community and others interested in the bicycle mode of travel. The analysis phase involves the use of methodologies somewhat similar to those employed by urban transportation planning studies, including the use of statistical computer programs available from the Federal Highway Administration's IBM 360 library of transportation planning programs. The final phase consists of organizing and listing the findings in an easily accessible format. The flow chart in Figure 1 shows the method of approach followed in this thesis.


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Pre-test and

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Edit, Code
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Analyze Data
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Summarize Findings


 *Through communication with L.A.W. and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (see page 12), the abbreviations as shown are preferred.

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