Will they really come if you build it?
A few comments that are recurring features here in A&S got me wondering if there really is a direct, provable correlation between building bike-specific infrastructure and people changing their primary means of transportation over to bikes from, well whatever it is noncyclists use. Obviously, completely answering that is a bit beyond my pay grade, to quote a famous person. However, I thought I would start by looking at the city that almost everyone agrees is THE leader in infrastructure building in the U.S., Portland, Oregon, and see how that is going.
After digging through an immense, if expected, amount of PR, here's where we find ourselves:
From the U.S. Census American Community Survey, here's the percentage of Portland residents riding bikes to work:
Let's put that together with a little something from the Portland city government:
Unless this build-out all occurred between 2007 and 2008, there seems to be a flaw in the story the bike infrastructure fans are telling. First of all, after an initial bump from about 4% to 6% between 2006 and 2008 (Great Recession?), there hasn't been any growth in bike use. NONE. ZERO. What happened to build it and they will come? Here's where I find my skeptical self:
Originally Posted by Dan Anderson, Portland Bureau of Transportation
1. Portland built everything in one year, 2007, so the story holds.
2. There is a cap on bike use that is around 6%. Anything higher is unachievable. This really puts a damper on Portland's plans to get to 25% by 2030.
3. The "next bin" of riders (thank you Brian Ratliff) needs infrastructure that is closer than a half-mile from their homes in order to ride.
4. Possibilities 1-3 are garbage. Infrastructure may be helpful, but building more beyond a certain point is barking up the wrong tree. There is some other ingredient missing. (Yes, I've said what I think it is many times here in A&S.)
What's your story to explain this?