Do Bike Paths Promote Bike Riding?

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Do Bike Paths Promote Bike Riding?

Postby Aushiker » Tue Feb 28, 2012 8:46 am

An American study but still interesting IMO.

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The "fundamental law of road congestion" tells us that building roads creates traffic. There's such a latent demand for space on the highway that no sooner does it appear than it's filled. But whether or not a similar law applies to bike paths and bike lanes remains a mystery.

A recent study of Seattle residents found that those living near bike paths had an increased likelihood of riding, but saw no effect for bike lanes. Then again, a study in Minneapolis reached the opposite conclusion. Some recent work has found no connection between bike lanes and ridership levels at all. In short, the research picture is far from settled.

A new study published in the March 2012 issue of the journal Transportation attempts to clarify the confusion. Ralph Buehler of Virginia Tech and John Pucher of Rutgers analyzed a new batch of 2008 data on bike lanes (that is, on-road routes) and bike paths (off-road ones) in 90 of the largest cities in America. Even after controlling for a number of factors — including land use, climate, socioeconomic status, gas prices, public transport and bike safety — they still get a clear result: "cities with a greater supply of bike paths and lanes have significantly higher bike commute rates." They continue:

[W]e find that the supply of bikeways per capita is a statistically significant predictor of bike commuting. By including separate variables for paths and lanes ... our analysis is able to examine each type of facility separately and finds that they do not have significantly different associations with levels of bike commuting among cities.


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by BNA » Tue Feb 28, 2012 9:20 am

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Re: Do Bike Paths Promote Bike Riding?

Postby hewey » Tue Feb 28, 2012 9:20 am

I think its far too simplistic to simply look at the amount of bike paths/bike lanes and try and get a direct correspondance to bike usage. The level of usage of bike paths and bike lanes is highly dependant on how well they have been designed and built. Do they cater to recreational cyclists or commuters? Do the recreational bike paths have nice views, engaging paths, and facilities like toilets, bubblers and carparks to encourage people to go there and spend a day riding them? Do the commuter bike paths link key residential areas with key employment areas? Are there gaps in the bike path, or do they spit you suddenly onto a footpath or busy road in the CBD at their end leaving you to find your own way to the office?

On top of that, I think most governments and councils seem to be playing catch up in terms of infrastructure (certainly here in Australia, and I think the yanks would be similar). In that light, most cycling infrastructure would only be built when there is demand or strong perceived demand for these facilities. If someone builds a bikepath or cycleway and no one uses it, they clearly haven't done all their homework properly - either theres not the demand for it, or its a crap design and does not meet the needs of the end users (most likely due to poor consultation and engagement).

I think too many academics try and look at cause and effect in isolation, however they do not undertake a holistic analysis such as a systems thinking approach which would enable them to gain a much more comprehensive and informed perspective. Especially when looking at an issue such as cycling, when there are so many factors at play including the demographics and socio-economics of an area, the geographical context (landscape, climate etc), the politics etc. Simply looking at the extent of bike paths and number of cyclists doesn't cut it.
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Re: Do Bike Paths Promote Bike Riding?

Postby __PG__ » Tue Feb 28, 2012 9:57 am

I'll just add that there are parts of Melbourne's inner north (e.g. Capital city trail crossing Nicholson St) where the amount of bike traffic already exceeds the ability of the existing bike infrastructure to cope.
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Re: Do Bike Paths Promote Bike Riding?

Postby roller » Tue Feb 28, 2012 10:48 am

Going on my experiences with friends that are "new" cyclists, a lot of them are really scared of going on the roads and as such they look to bike paths as a way to go cycling without having to interact with cars/trucks/hoons.

Without decent bike path-age, I doubt their cycling would ever progress from passing fancy > regular hobby > A.W.O.L.

So in my experiences I would say yes, bike paths do promote cycling, they are the gateway drug for new users.

Eventually though regular users shun the gateway drugs and go for ways of getting a much stronger hit, choosing bigger and faster roads in an attempt to satisfy their cravings.
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Re: Do Bike Paths Promote Bike Riding?

Postby grimbo » Tue Feb 28, 2012 12:13 pm

roller wrote:So in my experiences I would say yes, bike paths do promote cycling, they are the gateway drug for new users.

Eventually though regular users shun the gateway drugs and go for ways of getting a much stronger hit, choosing bigger and faster roads in an attempt to satisfy their cravings.


Yeah, that's my experience too. I went from casual commuter on a heavy-ass hybrid, to road bike 1 to road bike 2 over a 5 year period. At the start, I only wanted to be on bike lanes and paths and probably wouldn't have even tried bike commuting if they hadn't been there. Now I only use bike paths and lanes when they are markedly faster or safer than the road.

When my wife occasionally joins me bike commuting into work, she hates where there are no bike lanes (eg, on king st after Clarence st, coming into Sydney city). I used to hate that bit too, but now I like it better than the bike path, it's kind of a rush. If she felt safe the whole way in, she would cycle in much more often.
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Re: Do Bike Paths Promote Bike Riding?

Postby CatCanRide » Tue Feb 28, 2012 12:34 pm

Definately, there is no question in my mind.
I am new to cycling - never having had a pushbike when I was a child - and the only way I have been able to get out and doing some good K's on my bike is by using bike paths. Currently I only ride on the road when I have no other option. When I am more sure of my bike riding ability - and that includes things like being able to bunny hop my bike up a curb and knowing that I wont fear falling off in a sudden tight turn, riding with cleats and being able to pull my bidon out of the cage and drink while riding (which will show me I have good comfort in my balance on the bike) - I will start to ride more frequently - and by choice - on the road.

If I didn't have bike paths to ride on I very much doubt that I would ever be able to have the confidence to ride a pushbike.

BTW it isn't so much that I am terrified of the cars on the road - more so that I will make an error under pressure at some point and contribute to my having an accident that would have otherwise been avoidable. When I am properly confident in my cycling ability I that will be greatly reduced. I also ride a motorbike so idiot car drivers are something that I am used to having to deal with.
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Re: Do Bike Paths Promote Bike Riding?

Postby burger » Tue Feb 28, 2012 1:00 pm

One of the guys I used to work with a few years ago described his commute to/from work by bike as "fine, so long as you dont care if you arrive in one piece".

I initially re-started riding mainly for exercise. It was the bike path from Epping to the City that encouraged me to take my re-awakened joy of riding and consider a commute to work by bike . . . I doubt I would have done that otherwise.

After doing that for about a year, I feel aware/comfortable enough riding on the road.

I'm also a much more aware driver as a result of my riding . . . .

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Re: Do Bike Paths Promote Bike Riding?

Postby briztoon » Tue Feb 28, 2012 1:03 pm

CatCanRide wrote:BTW it isn't so much that I am terrified of the cars on the road - more so that I will make an error under pressure at some point and contribute to my having an accident that would have otherwise been avoidable.


:lol: That's my excuse for not driving a car. Not that I'm scared of all the idiots on the rode (well I am) but that I'll kill some one.
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Re: Do Bike Paths Promote Bike Riding?

Postby rustychisel » Tue Feb 28, 2012 1:48 pm

hewey wrote:I think its far too simplistic to simply look at the amount of bike paths/bike lanes and try and get a direct correspondance to bike usage... EDIT lots of words.


+ 1 if I change just one word, replacing it with 'correlation' and maybe 'with' instead of 'to'. :wink:
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Re: Do Bike Paths Promote Bike Riding?

Postby CommuRider » Tue Feb 28, 2012 6:17 pm

I support bike paths, around SOP it has encouraged A LOT to take up cycling in a safe, no driver aggro driving environment. Some of them may eventually get a road bike and commute on roads once they are confident enough. The bike paths are an essential transition to make cycling more accessible and mainstream to all. More bikes, less cars, less aggro, healthier peeps. i don't believe you can expect people who pick up cycling to immediately ride on roads as they won't have the experience yet to deal with the traffic. The more you ride, the more you learn about rights on the road and to know your limits on the bike and improvements you can make before going on the road. At the end of the day, people don't want to feel they are taking their lives in their own hands every time they ride. Bike paths are a form of reassurance too.
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Re: Do Bike Paths Promote Bike Riding?

Postby il padrone » Tue Feb 28, 2012 6:33 pm

roller wrote:Going on my experiences with friends that are "new" cyclists, a lot of them are really scared of going on the roads and as such they look to bike paths as a way to go cycling without having to interact with cars/trucks/hoons.

A bit of a theme showing up in the posts on this thread - adult, beginning cycling with a rush of enthusiasm, never having ridden as a child :? , now too fearful of "the traffic" to possibly consider riding on the roads, has to begin on bike paths.

I wonder how many of these new cyclists were hamstrung from riding as a child because they are part of the MHL-generation, now 25-30 year old ??

When I began cycling, as a child, there were neither bike paths nor MHLs. We just rode our bikes (badly) on the roads or on the footpath. My dad told me to ride on the footpath - I knew better (at 10 yo) that the law said bikes must be ridden on the road. I'd done the course at the Surrey Hills traffic school. Younger adult cyclists of today are obviously a good deal more timid than children of the 60s.
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Re: Do Bike Paths Promote Bike Riding?

Postby grimbo » Tue Feb 28, 2012 7:08 pm

il padrone wrote:
roller wrote:Going on my experiences with friends that are "new" cyclists, a lot of them are really scared of going on the roads and as such they look to bike paths as a way to go cycling without having to interact with cars/trucks/hoons.

A bit of a theme showing up in the posts on this thread - adult, beginning cycling with a rush of enthusiasm, never having ridden as a child :? , now too fearful of "the traffic" to possibly consider riding on the roads, has to begin on bike paths.

I wonder how many of these new cyclists were hamstrung from riding as a child because they are part of the MHL-generation, now 25-30 year old ??

When I began cycling, as a child, there were neither bike paths nor MHLs. We just rode our bikes (badly) on the roads or on the footpath. My dad told me to ride on the footpath - I knew better (at 10 yo) that the law said bikes must be ridden on the road. I'd done the course at the Surrey Hills traffic school. Younger adult cyclists of today are obviously a good deal more timid than children of the 60s.


Well, that's not true of me at all. My cycling as a kid was the same as yours. I'd go everywhere and anywhere on my bike - it was my freedom machine. When I took up cycling again 5 years ago the traffic seemed a lot faster and busier, and I had a much keener sense of my own mortality (plus two young children and a hefty mortgage).

And I think my sons would be off exploring the same as we were if they could - they are not timid about cycling at all. It's the parents who are too timid to let them out roaming like we used to.
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Re: Do Bike Paths Promote Bike Riding?

Postby il padrone » Tue Feb 28, 2012 7:16 pm

OK, well I guess the difference for me is that I really never stopped cycling (I did put a temoporary halt to riding to school for about 3 years as a teen, then realised it was the only sensible way to get to uni). So the change/growth in traffic and road user behaviour has been something I have dealt with.... mostly by riding my bike much like I would drive my car.
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Re: Do Bike Paths Promote Bike Riding?

Postby grimbo » Tue Feb 28, 2012 7:20 pm

il padrone wrote:OK, well I guess the difference for me is that I really never stopped cycling (I did put a temoporary halt to riding to school for about 3 years as a teen, then realised it was the only sensible way to get to uni). So the change/growth in traffic and road user behaviour has been something I have dealt with.... mostly by riding my bike much like I would drive my car.


I wish I had had not given it away for so long. Outside of my family, its the biggest joy of my life. 30 years not cycling :cry:
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Re: Do Bike Paths Promote Bike Riding?

Postby zero » Tue Feb 28, 2012 11:09 pm

There is no doubt they are successful in Sydney in attracting a ridership. They perform well, when part of the route offers a shortcut, or some other reason for an existing ridership to use the area anyway. ie connecting anzac bridge to pyrmont bridge to the harbor bridge has worked.

My only gripes with them is terrible performance, the tendency to transmit motor vehicle congestion to the bike lanes via poor signalling design (and lack of vision in when and where to grade sep), and the designs being 'round about safety neutral at best, and far worse than a road in their worst spots.
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Re: Do Bike Paths Promote Bike Riding?

Postby Ken Ho » Wed Feb 29, 2012 6:21 am

Ah, a question from my special interest area, of the bleeding obvious.
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Re: Do Bike Paths Promote Bike Riding?

Postby beauyboy » Wed Feb 29, 2012 1:51 pm

Looking at Brisbane, where there is fast direct commuter routes there are large numbers of commuter cycling, where there is bad or non-existant paths there is practically no usage.
All conditions need to be compared

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Re: Do Bike Paths Promote Bike Riding?

Postby Drasius » Wed Feb 29, 2012 3:01 pm

I believe it does to a certain degree. I used to ride everywhere when I was younger, before I got my car liscence. Then work and uni were a 30/40 min drive away, so it was no longer practical to ride. I have recently gotten back into riding for physio reasons, but it has also been something I have been wanting to do anyway and the fact that there is a bike path out the back of where I live certainly hasn't hurt at all. Given the shockingly poor nature of Perth drivers, I tend to stay away from the roads as you aren't meant to ride on the footpath anymore, so the more bike paths the better as far as I'm concerned. I can honestly say I don't think I would have gotten back into riding if there wasn't a couple of good cycle-paths very close to where I live.
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Re: Do Bike Paths Promote Bike Riding?

Postby TCAT » Wed Feb 29, 2012 3:40 pm

I believe it does promote bicycle riding as has been said by others in this thread.
If you are new to bike riding or relatively inexperienced or even contemplating buying your first bike then having a path to use is a major incentive to take up riding.
Obviously experienced riders are already motivated to ride but I think having better paths (away from traffic, no crossing of roads, more direct routes for commuters & many other issues) would increase even experienced users to use the bike even more.
I have been commuting, on and off, via push bikes for around 20 years now and my major reason for not riding 100% of the time (apart from weather related) is mixing it with traffic or having to ride up hills.
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Re: Do Bike Paths Promote Bike Riding?

Postby CommuRider » Wed Feb 29, 2012 6:30 pm

Gears TCAT. Makes conquering hills easy.
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Re: Do Bike Paths Promote Bike Riding?

Postby TCAT » Thu Mar 01, 2012 7:01 pm

CommuRider wrote:Gears TCAT. Makes conquering hills easy.


Gears: Only seem to be of benefit to me when going down hills not up them.....

I knew a bloke that used to put his bike in a middle range gear and leave it there for all but extremely steep hills. He figured the drive train would not wear out as quick by doing that....
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Re: Do Bike Paths Promote Bike Riding?

Postby Marx » Thu Mar 01, 2012 7:44 pm

Yes.
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Do Bike Paths Promote Bike Riding?

Postby Ozkaban » Thu Mar 01, 2012 8:32 pm

Yes. Where do you start riding before you're confident to mix it with traffic?

My wife wants to get into riding with me but won't ride on major roads (without experience). Lack of bike paths means she's not confident to start.
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Re: Do Bike Paths Promote Bike Riding?

Postby Kraeg » Thu Mar 01, 2012 8:47 pm

My LBS says as bike paths (shared or not) have opened up more people are getting bikes, but they drive to the path. They say riding on the road is too dangerous (despite never having tried it).

When I took up cycling a few years ago I didn't start with paths then progress... the next day after buying a bike from a work mate I was riding Sydney CBD streets in peak hour (though probably doing many things wrong).
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Re: Do Bike Paths Promote Bike Riding?

Postby styla » Fri Mar 02, 2012 3:49 pm

To me it certainly promotes riding.
I haven’t rode for a good 15years (hybrid) and really wanted to get back into cycling on a new road bike(mainly for exercise and get back in shape)
I wasn’t really keen on riding on the road yet as this was my first road bike and all but was fortunate enough to have a nice bike trail/path just behind my house. One trail that leads to my parent’s house which was fantastic. The other was a bike path along the Freeway (East Link in Melb)
As soon as I knew about the trails, I quickly decided to ride again.
If there was no trail/path I would’ve had second thoughts about riding as my other half does not like the idea of riding on the big roads near our house.

Once I get used to my new road bike and learn new skills and road rules, I may try the road 
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