June 17, 2022

“Cycling through the COVID-19 Pandemic “

The latest from John Pucher and Ralph Buehler: Cycling through the COVID-19 Pandemic to a More Sustainable Transport Future: Evidence from Case Studies of 14 Large Bicycle-Friendly Cities in Europe and North America”


Here is our new journal article with the case study of cycling in Vancouver (and 13 other large cities in North America and Europe). I’d like to share it with you, especially since you folks in Vancouver provided all of the information and photos for the Vancouver case study!

Advance warning: This is a very long article. The first part of the article uses monthly bicycle counter data from January 2019 to December 2021 to compare cycling trends in 13 countries. The second part of the article consists of case studies of 14 large cities. 

Figures 1 and 2 provide graphical overviews of monthly data at the national, aggregate level. Table 1 provides short summaries of the case study cities, intended to help give the reader an overview of the case studies.  The full case studies that follow that summary table are, of course, much longer and more detailed.



Abstract for the article:

“This article examines the impact of COVID-19 on cycling levels and government policies toward cycling over the period 2019 to 2021. We analyze national aggregate data from automatic bicycle counters for 13 countries in Europe and North America to determine month-by-month and year-to-year changes in cycling levels in 2020 and 2021 compared to 2019. That aggregate analysis is complemented by case studies of 14 cities in the USA, Canada, the UK, Belgium, France, Spain, and Germany.

Although there was much variation over time, among countries, and among cities, cycling levels generally increased from 2019 to 2021, mainly due to growth in cycling for recreation and exercise. In contrast, daily trips to work and education declined. All 14 of the cities we examined in the case studies reported large increases in government support of cycling, both in funding as well as in infrastructure.

Bikeway networks were expanded and improved, usually with protected cycling facilities that separate cyclists from motorized traffic. Other pro-cycling measures included restrictions on motor vehicles, such as reducing speed limits, excluding thru traffic from residential neighborhoods, banning car access to some streets, and re-allocating roadway space to bicycles. Car-restrictive measures became politically possible due to the COVID-19 crisis.”



Key takeaway:

“The overriding lesson from COVID-19 is that many pro-cycling and car-restrictive policies thought impossible before the pandemic were indeed possible to implement due to the public and political support generated by a crisis situation.

The documented success of those COVID-19 policies should encourage transport planners, government officials, and politicians to build on those policies in the coming years. Although less dramatic and sudden than the COVID-19 pandemic, environmental, economic, and social crises plague virtually every city, every country, and the world as a whole. These other crises deserve at least as much political and public commitment to finding a solution as has been evident with the COVID-19 pandemic. Shifting car trips to cycling would be an especially cost-effective and quick way to help deal with many of the world’s most important crises.”


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