COVID-19: Transportation Response Center
To achieve growth in bicycling, bikeway design needs to meet the needs of a broader set of potential bicyclists. Many existing bicycle facility designs exclude most people who might otherwise ride, traditionally favoring very confident riders, who tend to be adult men. When selecting a bikeway design strategy, identify potential design users in keeping with both network goals and the potential to broaden the bicycling user base of a specific street.
School-age children are an essential cycling demographic but face unique risks because they are smaller and thus less visible from the driver’s seat than adults, and often have less ability to detect risks or negotiate conflicts.
People aged 65 and over are the fastest growing population group in the US, and the only group with a growing number of car-free households. Seniors can make more trips and have increased mobility if safe riding networks are available. Bikeways need to serve people with lower visual acuity and slower riding speeds.
Women are consistently under-represented as a share of total bicyclists, but the share of women riding increases in correlation to better riding facilities. Concerns about personal safety including and beyond traffic stress are often relevant. Safety in numbers has additional significance for female bicyclists.
Bike share systems have greatly expanded the number and diversity of urban bicycle trips, with over 28 million US trips in 2016. Riders often use bike share to link to other transit, or make spontaneous or one-way trips, placing a premium on comfortable and easily understandable bike infrastructure. Bike share users range widely in stress tolerance, but overwhelmingly prefer to ride in high-quality bikeways. All Ages & Abilities networks are essential to bike share system viability.
While Black and Latinx bicyclists make up a rapidly growing segment of the riding population, a recent study found that fewer than 20% of adult Black and Latinx bicyclists and non-bicyclists feel comfortable in conventional bicycle lanes; fear of exposure to theft or assault or being a target for enforcement were cited as barriers to bicycling. Long- standing dis-investment in street infrastructure means that these riders are disproportionately likely to be killed by a car than their white counterparts.
Low-income bicyclists make up half of all Census-reported commuter bicyclists, relying extensively on bicycles for basic transportation needs like getting to work. In addition, basic infrastructure is often deficient in low-income neighborhoods, exacerbating safety concerns. An All Ages & Abilities bikeway is often needed to bring safe conditions to the major streets these bicyclists already use on a daily basis.
People with disabilities may use adaptive bicycles including tricycles and recumbent handcycles, which often operate at lower speeds, are lower to the ground, or have a wider envelope than other bicycles. High-comfort bicycling conditions provide mobility, health, and independence, often with a higher standard for bike infrastructure needed.
Bicycles and tricycles outfitted to carry multiple passengers or cargo, or bicycles pulling trailers, increase the types of trips that can be made by bike, and are not well accommodated by bicycle facilities designed to minimal standards.
The small percentage of the bicycling population who are very experienced and comfortable riding in mixed motor vehicle traffic conditions are also accommodated by, and often prefer, All Ages & Abilities facilities, though they may still choose to ride in mixed traffic.
Adapted from the Urban Bikeway Design Guide, published by Island Press.