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  • By this point, you've probably heard that more and

  • more Americans are riding bikes.

  • Bike sales are surging.

  • The bike industry said that sales in May were up

  • 81 percent.

  • That's a second consecutive month that sales have

  • topped a billion dollars.

  • People have been scrambling to buy bicycles,

  • causing major shortages.

  • During the pandemic, some cities closed their

  • streets to give bikers and pedestrians more room

  • to maintain a social distance.

  • In the spring and summer of 2020 bike shops

  • struggled to meet the surging demand from new

  • cyclists. Since then, retailers have been able to

  • get their inventories in shape.

  • With more bikes, motorcycles, mopeds and scooters

  • on the road, transportation experts say the

  • moment is primed for a transit upheaval.

  • All of this combined is called micromobility.

  • Here's how having more bikes on the road could

  • change the U.S. transportation system.

  • There are two groups of people who have picked up

  • biking during the pandemic, those who use it to

  • commute to work or get around, and those who use

  • it for fitness and recreational purposes.

  • Shannon Ng falls into the first bucket.

  • She signed up for a Citi Bike membership in New

  • York City this September.

  • Using the bike for me right now is basically just

  • getting myself from one place to another.

  • I was not biking before the pandemic just because

  • biking in New York City was so scary and cars are

  • just all over the place and I just avoided bikes

  • at all costs. But now the reason why I changed is

  • because that there's lesser cars and I just feel

  • much safer on the bike.

  • Shannon also represents the growing number of

  • women in the traditionally male dominated

  • activity. In New York, women are now the biggest

  • users of the city's bike-share program since it

  • launched in 2013.

  • A big reason behind the gender difference is that

  • fear and concerns about traffic safety, in

  • addition to personal safety, but primarily

  • traffic safety. And so in this environment where

  • there's less motor vehicle traffic, it certainly

  • has the potential for getting more women out

  • there riding.

  • Cyrus Kolar lives in North Carolina.

  • He wasn't biking before the pandemic, but now he

  • bikes around seven hours a week.

  • During the pandemic, the gyms closed.

  • And so I bought some weights, but I really wasn't

  • I was getting a lot of cardio from basketball and

  • was, I guess, looking for another way to get some

  • exercise. I might just race for one season and

  • that might fall off. But I think cycling just for

  • fun and just for exercise is something that might

  • hold on. Cyrus was lucky.

  • He scored a road bike by looking on Facebook

  • Marketplace, but not everyone has been as

  • fortunate. Early on in the pandemic, basic level

  • adult bicycles under 200 dollars led bike sales

  • soaring more than 203 percent from the year

  • prior. Sales of mountain bikes increased by more

  • than 150 percent in children.

  • Bikes grew by 107 percent.

  • Then in June 2020, the demand shifted to

  • higher-end bicycles worth more than $1000 like

  • road, mountain and electric bikes.

  • Before the pandemic, high-end electric by company

  • VanMoof tripled its production in anticipation of

  • growth, but that wasn't enough.

  • Covid changed a lot for us as a company.

  • It cost a lot of more demand.

  • Demand is much higher than production at the

  • moment. To give you an idea.

  • I think we in Q2 2020, we had six times

  • more demand than in 2019.

  • We worked harder than we've ever worked in our in

  • our lives. Just trying to keep up with things.

  • You know Specialized has been around almost 50

  • years. So it's not like there's no bikes, it just

  • depends on which bike you want.

  • The biking infrastructure in the United States

  • lags behind European nations and other countries

  • where cycling is already integrated into their

  • transportation systems.

  • And for one big reason in the U.S., cars are

  • king. It's still the most common transportation

  • mode. And actually this is also very much an

  • impact of federal funding and federal policies.

  • Up to 1991, almost all federal funding was going

  • towards the building of highways towards, you

  • know, the car and public transit.

  • It's the first time in 1991 that we see some

  • dollars that is allocated to active means of

  • transportation, improvements for cycling and

  • biking. Since then, we have witnessed more

  • funding, which has some impact in terms

  • of, you know, building an infrastructure that is

  • safer for cyclists.

  • So cities already had the funding and plans in

  • place to launch an expansion of their biking

  • network ahead of the pandemic.

  • They were able to act quickly when they saw a

  • rise in cycling interest.

  • Seattle was one of those cities.

  • It also was one of the first municipalities to

  • announce it was making 20 of its 25 mile Stay

  • Healthy Streets program permanent, a program

  • meant to allow residents outside while

  • maintaining a social distance.

  • Really early on in the pandemic, we made a

  • decision to repurpose some of our neighborhood

  • streets, our Neighborhood Greenways, as we call

  • them, to be local access only and to make them

  • closed for cars going through and open for people

  • walking and people biking. And this allowed

  • people to socially just and also get to key

  • destinations. And we found really quickly that

  • more people were walking and biking on the

  • streets and we decided to make them permanent.

  • And now we're working with communities as we

  • hopefully emerge from the pandemic to figure out

  • what exactly that means in terms of making those

  • permanent. Seattle isn't alone around the world.

  • Cities like Bogota and Berlin also expanded their

  • biking infrastructure.

  • Others, like Milan, London and Geneva have added

  • flexible bike lanes to separate bikers and cars

  • in the U.S. Some cities have seen a gradual

  • recovery and rides on shared bicycles and

  • scooters as a result of temporary cycling

  • infrastructure. But one of the things we are

  • starting to see in the data is that the trips are

  • actually growing in length, which I think is a

  • really interesting finding is people are are

  • taking longer trips with shared micromobility

  • post pandemic, and I think that may be closely

  • aligned with a growth in infrastructure to

  • support it like slow streets.

  • The biking infrastructure in the U.S.

  • can range from a parking protected bike lane,

  • protected bike lanes, bicycle boulevards,

  • off-street trails and paths, traffic cones,

  • streets and traditional striped bike lanes.

  • Those elements, in addition to things like bike

  • traffic signals, we have all of those tools and

  • they just need to be combined in the right

  • context, in the right environment.

  • And usually what we find are or what I would

  • argue is that the biggest barriers is more

  • political will to make those improvements.

  • I think we know how to build those types of

  • networks. We just aren't always willing to do it.

  • In March 2020, the Transportation Research and

  • Education Center at Portland State University

  • looked at six cities and compared the sales,

  • wages, employment numbers of the retail and food

  • services before and after the cities added biking

  • infrastructure to those areas.

  • The study was built on a 2013 New York City

  • Department of Transportation and a 2014 San

  • Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency survey.

  • So we have found that in a number of places, new

  • bike lanes, new pedestrian infrastructure in

  • business areas can often is associated with

  • increased sales, increased employment to

  • businesses along those corridors.

  • So in some cases, there's no effect, but rarely

  • have we seen a negative effect.

  • Funding remains a big challenge for biking

  • infrastructure. The money for bicycle

  • infrastructure traditionally comes from federal

  • and state gas taxes.

  • Most of the money ends up going toward automobile

  • infrastructure. Opponents argue that since it

  • comes from gas taxes, the money should be used on

  • improving infrastructure for motor vehicles, not

  • bikes. Once funding is secured, the next step is

  • determining where to place the infrastructure.

  • That placement can often cut along class and

  • racial lines. Currently, up until now, when we

  • look across cities in the U.S., bicycle

  • infrastructure is usually not equitably

  • distributed. And so there's some good research

  • out there that shows, at least in larger cities,

  • white and higher income people are probably going

  • to have better access to bicycle infrastructure.

  • So that certainly has to change.

  • We need to do a much better job of being more

  • equitable in providing accessible, safe

  • infrastructure for everyone.

  • Even though more Americans are biking during the

  • pandemic, it's not clear biking will maintain the

  • popularity once it's over.

  • When the U.S. reopen from covid lockdowns during

  • the summer months, transportation planners

  • carefully watched a metric known as the vehicle

  • miles traveled.

  • It measures the amount of travel for all vehicles

  • in an area over a period of time.

  • That metric fell in March 2020.

  • The number increased when cities reopened from

  • covid lockdowns, indicating that people were

  • taking longer rides in their cars and a possible

  • return to congested roads.

  • Car traffic levels have not returned completely

  • to pre-pandemic levels.

  • For cities that have already prioritized shared

  • mobility and pedestrian pathways, biking will

  • continue to grow as a permanent transportation

  • option. One of the silver linings that we're

  • seeing is an increased appetite for cycling and

  • scooter use and walking.

  • So one of the things we're predicting is that

  • we're going to see more infrastructure dedicated

  • to safe walking and cycling and scooter use

  • moving forward and people taking advantage of

  • active transportation as a mode.

  • So as we look at where we're making those

  • infrastructure investments, a lot of it is based

  • on where the streets themselves need the

  • investment and where we need to rebuild streets

  • or repave streets. And when we do that, what we

  • can do in terms of making those streets into

  • supporting multimodal travel as we recover from

  • the pandemic and people need to move again, we're

  • going to need to make sure that people have all

  • sorts of travel options so we don't get back to

  • congestion and frustration with our with our

  • transportation system. And we can make sure that

  • people can get around the city safely no matter

  • how they choose to do so.

By this point, you've probably heard that more and

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B1 US biking infrastructure transportation pandemic cycling funding

Why Covid-19 Caused A Bike Boom

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    joey joey posted on 2021/05/18
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