Not that the city itself conducts the count, of course. Even though they should.
Working in conjunction with LA Walks and other groups, more than 400 volunteers conducted the count over a total of six hours at 120 locations throughout the city last September. And the results are intriguing, as the Coalition points out in their press release (pdf), starting with a 7.5% increase in ridership since 2013, driven largely by the addition of 200 miles of new bikeways in the city.
The report also found that:
- The busiest time for bicycling is the evening commute period, suggesting that most people are riding for transportation.
- People strongly prefer riding on dedicated facilities like bike paths and bike lanes over streets with no bicycle facilities.
- Fewer than 1 in 5 bicyclists is female, and female ridership is highest on bike paths and bike lanes, suggesting that the lack of safe and comfortable facilities is causing a gender disparity among bicyclists.
- Bike lanes improve bicyclist behavior, cutting sidewalk riding in half compared to streets without and reducing wrong-way riding as well.
Interestingly, even though they force riders to share lanes with often unwelcoming drivers, streets where sharrows were installed after earlier counts showed a 132% increase in ridership, though only a 22% increase in ridership compared to similar streets without sharrows.
Meanwhile, bike lanes resulted in an 86% increase in ridership compared to comparable streets. And off-road bike paths showed nearly four times the usage compared to streets with no bike facilities; in fact, a full 25% of the riders counted were on bike paths, despite representing just 8% of the count locations.
Not surprisingly, bicycling was also highest near universities and in low-income communities, which suggests many people may be riding for economic reasons.
Clearly, though, there’s still a lot of work to do.
As Executive Director Jen Klausner puts it in the foreword to the study,
Since the 2010 Bicycle Plan, Los Angeles has expanded its bicycle network at an unprecedented rate, at one point exceeding 100 lane miles in one year. However, most of these miles have consisted of bike lanes “where they fit” and sharrows where bike lanes don’t. The result has been a somewhat fragmented bicycle network primarily designed to avoid impacts to motor vehicle delay rather than designed to meet the needs of people who want to ride a bike. This report makes it clear that where bicycle improvements are made, ridership is up, but that citywide growth is limited by the lack of a connected network of safe bikeways accessible to all Angelenos.
The report ends with a number of recommendations:
- Design streets for people of all ages and abilities
- Build a network of protected bikeways, such as the one planned for South Figueroa
- Build safe routes to everywhere along Active Streets
- Engage communities directly in the design of their streets
- Increase age-appropriate opportunities for bicycle safety education
- Increase funding for walking, biking and safe routes to schools
- Measure results
As noted above, it should be the city’s role to collect the data necessary for effective bicycle planning — not a volunteer effort conducted by a non-profit organization. City planners have been driving blind for far too long; the mayor’s commitment to data-driven accountability must extend to our streets, as well.
Still, the organization should be applauded for taking the responsibility onto their own shoulders. And providing the most detailed look yet at how, where, when and why Angelenos ride their bikes.
You can download the full report here.