During the pandemic, there has been an increase in outdoor activities including the use of public parks, trails and cycling. Greg Lindsey from the University of Minnesota and his research team are looking at the increases in the use of Minnesota public parks, trails, biking, and walking that have been widely reported during the pandemic.
Lindsey talks about the team’s analysis of the annual daily bicycle traffic volumes during the pandemic, which shows that average daily bicycle use on 16 trails increased 39% from 2019 to 2020, but declined about 15% on eight roadways and road shoulders and 9% on two other facilities.
“In collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), we confirmed in an ongoing study what many Minnesota residents have observed: bike use on public multi-use trails and shared-use paths increased in 2020 relative to 2019 levels. However, we also found declines in use of bike lanes on roadways, mostly likely associated with reductions in commuting traffic as more people worked at home.
“It’s our hypothesis that the different trends in bike use on different facilities are associated with changes in trip purposes. That means fewer utilitarian trips for work and shopping and more trips for exercise, recreation and mental health.
“Our research findings underscore the value of traffic monitoring as well as the challenges in generalizing about trends in bicycle use. Ultimately, this information guides investments in these facilities to improve the safety and health of bicyclists and pedestrians and increase the associated economic benefits.”
Lindsey and his students have been collaborating with the MnDOT to study how the pandemic has affected non-motorized transportation throughout the state. Analysis of annual average daily bicycle traffic data on facilities were provided by MnDOT and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources automated traffic counters.