A new study of European city's temporary bike lanes has concluded that if you build it, they will bike; and predicts that if you keep it, they will continue to bike.
The research, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, collected data on the length of new bike lanes implemented over a four month period during the pandemic in 106 cities across Europe.
This dataset was compared with the number of bike riders in each city on roads with new bike paths and on roads without, and found that adding bike lanes increases the number of riders across the entire city, not just on the streets with new infrastructure.
"Within 4 months, an average of 11.5 kilometres of provision pop-up bike lanes have been built per city and the policy has increased cycling between 11 and 48% on average," the study stated.
Paris, which implemented the largest pop-up lane program in the shortest amount of time of any of the cities in the study had one of largest increases in riders.
“It almost seems like a natural law that the more infrastructure you have, the more cycling you will have,” Sebastian Kraus, the study's lead author told The New York Times.
This brings potential for massive health and economic benefits, with the study projecting: "the additional cycling induced by the pop-up bike lane treatment during its ﬁrst months of operation has generated between $0.5 and $1.7 billion in health beneﬁts. Thus, the new infrastructure may generate between $2.2 and $6.9 billion/y in health beneﬁts if the new bike lanes become permanent and make cycling habits stick.”
And it's not necessarily a big "if".
Though Mr. Kraus cautioned that the study's findings were unique to the pandemic, it may not be a stretch to imagine that more people will continue to ride bikes once the pandemic passes.
Research on major disruptions to public transport, such as strikes, has shown that forcing people to experiment with new routes and modes of transit can lead to permanent new routines.
“There’s indications from mobility behavior research that as soon as you find another way of getting around, then you might actually stick to it,” Mr. Kraus said. “So I’m confident that if you keep the infrastructure, that people will continue cycling.”
This article was made possible by the support of Bicycle Network's members who enable us to make bike riding better in Australia.