February 27, 2012

Bike Ride Lengths

I am a very utilitarian cyclist. I bike to get places such as work, classes, or hang-out spots. I certainly enjoy biking to some extent and am pleased that I get some exercise but I am primarily interested in my final destination. 

I don't know if guilty is the right word, but ever since I moved and increased my one-way commute from 1.5 miles to 6 miles, I've felt guilty (?) about not biking as much for errands. The nearest Kroger is 1.5 miles away, but for whatever reason I haven't felt up for biking there. On top of that, most of the happening places are 5-6 miles away which is a persuasive deterrent to biking because it's one thing to get somewhere, it's another thing to bike home at night, uphill, and against the wind. 

Enough complaining! I was curious about the distribution of bicycle trips so I went to Google armed with only a keyboard.

The first study* that came up was of Guelph, Ontario, Canada. The study was done based on 1993 survey data with a focus on seeing how much bicyclists diverted from the minimum distance to get to their final destination. In other words, to see how far a bicyclist would go to avoid potential conflicts like bridges, faster roads, etc. 

Some brief information about Guelph. It was a town of about 90,000 people during the study. The current density of it is 3,422 people / sq. mile which is similar to Columbus at 3,556 people / sq. mile. It's current bicycle infrastructure also seems similar to Columbus in that a major bike trail follows a river downtown:

So what did the study show? The median one-way bicycle commute was 3.7 km (2.3 mi.) which sounds about right to me. 15 minutes is a good distance for a commute and you can definitely get 2.3 miles in 15 minutes. See below for a chart (converted from kilometers to miles) of the frequency distribution:

Another thing to pull out from the figure is that about 80% of the trips are slightly more than 3 miles in length. This makes me feel less guilty of only biking to work. 

As for the trip deviation from the minimum route distance, it was found that the average diversion was 0.4 km (0.25 mi.). This tells us that most bikers don't like going out of their way to take detours/specialized routes. However, a minority of people diverted by much more than that. Will cyclists we add in the future be similar to the cyclists in this study and deviate very little from a minimum route or will future cyclists be more willing to take detours to go on bicycle facilities? I'm sure there might be more data available for this, but for now, file this under the Great Bike Lane Debate.

Cool cats-in-a-running-wheel link of the day:

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