Pop-Up Bike Lanes Increased Cycling During the Pandemic, Research Finds

Adding bike lanes to urban streets can increase the number of cyclists across an entire city, not just on the streets with new bike lanes, according to a new study. The finding adds to a growing body of research indicating that investments in cycling infrastructure can encourage more people to commute by bike, which helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve health.

“It’s the first piece of evidence we have trying to, at a larger scale, link the bikeway infrastructure — these pop-up bike lanes and things that were built — to cycling levels during Covid,” said Ralph Buehler, chairman of urban affairs and planning in the School of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech, who was not involved in the study.

The research, published online Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that in cities where bike infrastructure was added, cycling had increased up to 48 percent more than in cities that did not add bike lanes.

separate study that investments in infrastructure for cycling and walking more than paid for themselves once the health benefits were taken into account.

“They increase our physical activity and reduce levels of greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality, which all have impacts on health,” Mr. Raifman said.

Mr. Kraus cautioned that his study’s findings were unique to the pandemic, as public health officials encouraged cycling to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission and cities across the world added bike infrastructure to their streets. But it may not be a stretch to imagine that more people could keep riding bikes once the pandemic ends.

Research on transit strikes has shown that forcing people to experiment with new routes and modes of transit can lead to 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.”

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