April 27, 2021

Pucher and Buehler: “COVID Impacts on Cycling, 2019-2020”

Ralph Buehler and John Pucher, two friends of PT, just published an article in the international journal ‘”Transport Reviews” about the impacts of COVID on cycling in countries and cities from around the world – and the editors have given it free access: “COVID Impacts on Cycling, 2019-2020,” Transport Reviews (July 2021).

Here are some selected highlights:

The 11 EU countries averaged an overall 8% increase in cycling, but with a much larger increase on weekends (+23%) than on weekdays (+3%).

The USA averaged 16% growth overall, but similar to the EU, with higher growth on weekends (+29%) than on weekdays (+10%).

Canada averaged a 3% increase, but again more (28%) on weekends, and a decline of 8% on weekdays (Eco-Counter, 2021);

… comparing data from all of 2019 with all of 2020 can be misleading because it includes periods when almost no travel was allowed. A specific example of this is France. During the first lockdown (from March 17 to May 11, 2020), cycling levels fell by 70% compared to pre-lockdown levels. After the lockdown was lifted, cycling increased five-fold to a level 44% higher than before the lockdown. Thus, most year-to-year estimates understate the true increase in cycling when it was allowed. …

Streetlight data for the USA report an increase in cycling trips (+12%) from 2019 to 2020 but a 15% decline in motor vehicle km travelled, indicating a considerable increase in bike mode share. …

A national survey in the USA asked new cyclists (first time ever or in over a year) their main motivations for cycling in 2020. New cyclists reported five main reasons (not mutually exclusive): stress relief and mental health (58%), exercise and physical fitness (57%), socialising with friends and family (43%), relaxation (37%), and getting outdoors (33%). …

New cyclists and more frequent cyclists may have developed new habits of travel and greater familiarity with cycling; both factors increase the likelihood they will continue to cycle in coming years. A survey of new cyclists in the USA (first time ever or in over a year) asked whether they intended to continue cycling after the pandemic. About 18% expected to cycle every day, 30% several times a week, and 35% about once a week (PFB, 2021). Only 17% anticipated not cycling at all or only very infrequently after the pandemic. …

A March 2021 consumer survey found that 45% of respondents in the USA reported that they intended to use public transport less than previously, even after the pandemic is past (Consulting US, 2021). Thus, some of the public transport riders who shifted to cycling during the pandemic will probably continue to ride bikes, especially with improved cycling facilities and greater availability of bicycles noted previously.


Here’s our visual comparison from year to year – 2020 to 2021 – at the same place at Sunset Beach and on the Beach Bikeway. 

May 2020:


April 2021



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