Last week I used data to bust the myths that Copenhagen has so many cyclists because the landscape is flat and they ride solely for environmental concerns. This week I wanted to see if I could find any data on how two other factors affect the number of cyclists in cities: weather and urban sprawl.
Copenhagenize mentions that 7% of the population of Sevilla, Spain is on bike, up from 0.5% in five years. Having not travelled to Seville in about a decade, this was a very intriguing number to me. Seville normally has very pleasant winters but the summers are downright hot with the Andalucian sun bearing down on you with average temperatures from 32-36C (89-97F). These temperatures mimic summer temperatures in much of the continental U.S. with perhaps a bit less humidity. However, the temperatures have not kept cyclists from hitting the roads in recent years.
Recently Seville joined forces with Manuel Calvo to design a full 80km (50 miles) of segregated bike lanes in the city. A recent audit says the average number of bikes used daily rose from just over 6,000 to more than 70,000. There isn’t the long history or culture of cycling in Sevilla like there is in Copenhagen or Amsterdam but you can’t necessarily correlate high temperatures with less bike riding as Seville proves.
Finally, let’s turn our attention to claims that we can’t become cycling cities in the U.S. because of all the urban sprawl. A 2014 Smart Growth America study points out the most sprawling metro areas in the U.S. with a lot of them being in the South. In fact Atlanta has the longest average commute measured by distance of 12.8 miles. It’s generally true that most U.S. cities are not as densely populated as some European counterparts I saw on holiday. However, twenty-nine percent of Americans commute between 1-5 miles each way daily according to the US Department of Transportation’s National Household Travel Survey. If we were in Copenhagen where the average bicyclists travels up to 4 km per day, a good portion of that 29% would be using a bicycle. I think this data (while not conclusive) points to the connection that having a better bicycling infrastructure encourages more cycling.