More bike infrastructure doesn’t necessarily mean more cyclists.

Many residents pointed out that they don’t see many cyclists using the new Cascade bike lanes. The pro-bike lanes side points out (fairly, I think) that it may take a while for more people to realize the bike lanes are there, but eventually people will adjust to it. However:

  1. For many months in Colorado Springs the weather is too harsh for the vast majority of cyclists, meaning a lot of road space is just going to waste because motorists can’t use it and cyclists won’t.
  2. Even during fair weather months it’s not clear there are enough people interested in cycling at all, much less regularly, to justify taking traffic lanes from major roadways.

Reason magazine had an article today about how, nationally, bike riding is declining even as major cities throw millions of dollars at increasing bike infrastructure.

Take Los Angeles, where biking has been falling for years, even as the city has added bike lanes at a frenzied pace. The city’s 2010 Bicycle Plan called for quintupling the number of bike lane miles at a projected cost of $234 million to $437 million. The state and federal governments have chipped in with grants for bike infrastructure. The city has been adding from 30 to 60 lane miles (the number of lanes multiplied by miles of path) of bikeways a year, reaching some 1,200 lane miles—including fully separated lanes, recreational trails, and marked or “sharrowed” lanes—by 2017.

Despite this investment, biking numbers are down. In 2013, some 21,000 Angelenos (1.2 percent of commuters) biked to work. After a spike in 2014, the number of bikers has been falling continuously. Last year, only 17,930 commuters (about 0.9 percent of all commuters) biked to work, according to the new survey data.

 

The reasons could vary from city to city. Yet the fact that biking is falling even in those cities most committed to expanding bike ridership suggests that throwing more money at bike-only infrastructure cannot change the fact that most people would rather use non-pedal-powered modes of transportation to get around town.