Volume 2, Issue 6 December 2002

Volume 2, Issue 6
December 2002

Bicycle Use Among Adult US Residents

Results from the National Survey on Recreation and the Environment 2000, indicate that over 80 million US residents bicycle for fun or exercise.* The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) monthly Omnibus Survey found an average 33 million adult US residents rode a bicycle an average of 6 days during the 30 days prior to the survey. On average, bicyclists report spending just over an hour per day bicycling on a typical day that they rode.

Similar to other outdoor activities (e.g. walking and recreational boating), US residents ride their bikes more often in the warmer months than during winter months (Figure 1). Although a minimum of 12 percent of the adult population rides a bicycle every month, the number of adults riding bicycles in August was almost twice the number riding bicycles in December.

Of those adults who bicycle, 9 out of 10 do so mainly for recreation (54 percent) or for exercise (33 percent). About 6 percent of adult bicyclists commute by bicycling to school or work or bicycle as part of their job.

BTS also found that about three out of five (62 percent) bicyclists report that they travel mostly on paved roads, the shoulders of paved roads, or bike lanes on roads while just over one in five (21 percent) are most likely to use bike/walking paths or trails. About 11 percent of bicyclists travel mostly on sidewalks and 6 percent travel most frequently on some other surface.

BTS survey results (Figure 2) show that bicyclists are more likely to:

  • Be male rather than female (61 to 39 percent, p<.001),
  • Earn $50,000 or more in income (58 to 42 percent, p<.001),
  • Be less than 45 years old (66 to 34 percent, p<.001).

Among bicyclists, regardless of their gender, age, or income, there were no significant differences in frequency of bicycle use. For example, roughly a third of both male and female bicyclists reported bicycling on 1-2 days per month, an additional third of both groups reported bicycling on 3-5 days per month and the remaining third reported bicycling on 6 or more days per month.

The following Omnibus Survey questions were used in preparing this report:

  • During [last month], did you ride a bicycle? Please do not include stationary bicycles.
  • How many days did you ride a bicycle?
  • Primarily for what purpose did you use it?
  • And on a typical day that you rode a bicycle, about how much time did you spend bicycling?
  • Did you bicycle mostly on paved roads (not on shoulders of paved roads); shoulders of paved roads; bike lanes on roads; bike paths, walking paths, or trails; unpaved roads (for example dirt, gravel, sand); sidewalks; grass; or other surfaces?

Source and Accuracy Statements

Data presented in this issue of OmniStats are taken from several issues of the BTS Omnibus Household Survey. Data are preliminary and are subject to change. The target population for the survey is the US non-institutionalized adult population (18 years of age or older). Results are based on a completed sample of 1000+ households that are randomly selected using a list-assisted random digit dialing (RDD) methodology. The findings summarized in this report are estimates derived from a sample survey. Sample surveys contain two major components of error-sampling and nonsampling error.

Sampling Error. Sampling error occurs because findings are based on a sample, rather than on the entire population. The total respondent pool for the Omnibus Survey is 1,000+ for an estimated sampling error of about ±3% at the 95% confidence level. Sampling error will be larger for sample subgroups (such as males or disabled persons) and for survey items that do not apply to all members of the sample (e.g. sample members who flew on a commercial airline during the 30 days prior to the survey). Standard error estimates for each Omnibus Survey item are available on the BTS website for the Omnibus Survey at http://www.bts.gov/omnibus/household/index.html. After selecting the month of interest, choose "Marginal Frequency Distributions."

Nonsampling Error. Estimates are subject to various errors during the survey process, such as data collection, response coding, transcription, and data editing errors. These errors would also occur if a complete census was conducted under the same conditions as the sample survey. Explicit measures of the effects of these errors are not available. However, stringent quality control procedures were followed during data entry and the questionnaire was reviewed and pretested in an effort to minimize nonsampling errors associated with data entry and questionnaire design. Nonresponse error is a function of both the nonresponse rate and the differences, if any, between respondents and nonrespondents

Please contact the following individuals for additional information about:
the survey: lori.putman@bts.gov
this report: june.jones@bts.gov
press contact: david.smallen@bts.gov

*Summary Report #1, Outdoor Recreation Participation in the United States, Question 28: During the past 12 months, did you do any type of bicycling for fun or exercise? From the National Survey on Recreation and the Environment (NSRE): 2000-2001. The Interagency National Survey Consortium, Coordinated by the USDA Forest Service, Recreation, Wilderness, and Demographics Trends Research Group, Athens, GA and the Human Dimensions Research Laboratory, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN.