U.S. Bicycling Trends: 2021 Update
When StreetLight published its COVID Bicycle Trends update in the fall of 2020, it was thrilled to find that an overall spike in cycling across America’s top 100 metros had largely persisted throughout the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a remarkable 11% year-over-year (YOY) cycling increase in September of 2020. This is consistent with media reports of booming bike sales and Americans taking to neighborhood streets made empty by stay-at-home orders and persisting remote work options for previously office-based employees. But as Americans moved beyond the depths of the pandemic in 2021, did they keep their new biking habits going, or did they get back into their cars?
To find out, we tapped the StreetLight InSight® Multimode Metrics for an assessment of July YOY ridership. (Summer months provide a clean comparison afforded by warm weather virtually everywhere in the U.S.) We found that total U.S. bike activity in Summer 2021 showed an increase of 10% compared to pre-pandemic Summer 2019 — and was virtually flat versus Summer 2020: Good news for cycling overall!
However, a more granular analysis of the 100 biggest American CBSA metro areas reveals a much more varied perspective. We visualized the differences among metros through maps comparing the growth in ridership for both Summer of 2020 and Summer of 2021 relative to the pre-pandemic Summer 2019.
Looking specifically at the last 12 months, we observe decreased cycling activity in West Coast and Midwest metros in 2021 versus 2020, and increased activity in Southwest metros for the same time period. Moreover, the number of metros recording negative cycling growth versus pre-pandemic increased from 10 to 19, with many large cities in the red.
And while there are clear winners and losers of this year’s cycling trends report, our analysis found that the COVID bicycling boom has generally persisted beyond the worst of the pandemic. Keep reading to learn where bike activity remains strong, where it fizzled out, and which policy decisions led cities to a cycling boom — or bust.
Read the full report here.