2011 Boulder Cyclist Survey Results

Southern Sun Bike Parking

We put out a survey in early March (more detailed summary here in PDF format), asking a bunch of questions about the bicycle habits and desires of Boulderites, and we’ve gotten nearly 200 responses.  This is an attempt at a summary.

A large majority (83%) of respondents reported using their bikes as either their primary (53%) or secondary (30%) mode of transportation.  This isn’t too surprising, since we targeted cyclists in promoting the survey.  It’s important to realize though that at some level, our most important audience is people don’t currently bike, or identify as cyclists, but who could be potentially be enticed into riding given the right inducements.  This group is important both because it’s large, and because it’s not “the choir” in terms of preaching.  It isn’t your base that you aim for in politics, it’s the undecideds.  At the same time, the current cyclists are the political constituency that we are trying to represent in an advocacy context.


Virtually everyone (97%) who responded said they rode their bikes most days (74%) or several days a week (23%).  The most frequent trip distances (irrespective of mode) were short, with 1-3 miles (27%) and 3-5 miles (34%) taking the top positions.  This is roughly in line with national averages so far as I can tell (i.e. 40% of trips being less than 2 miles).  It would be nice to have real (e.g. GPS) data on this though; I’m a little skeptical of people’s ability to judge their most frequent trips, and the length of those trips, accurately.

The most common purposes for bicycle trips (when allowed to list two) were commuting (72%), errands (59%), and recreation (61%).  I suspect this is simply representative of the most common trips in general, at least for commuting and errands.


Nearly 60% of respondents reported that they do take their bike on transit sometimes, and of those, more than 80% had encountered full bike racks.  We asked people to describe how they dealt with full bike racks, free-form.  The most common answers were: put my bike underneath (on regional buses), waited for the next bus, brought my bike on the bus (if it wasn’t terribly full and the driver was amenable), and rode my bike the whole way to my destination.  Only 1 person out of 95 said they locked their bike up at the bus stop.  That just isn’t an option.  People don’t want to leave their bikes behind.

When asked why people ride their bike, the top responses were: for the exercise (94%), because they enjoy being outdoors (92%), for the pure joy of it (88%), environmental reasons (88%), convenience (77%), economical (75%)… etc.  Overwhelmingly, people seem to just like it.  It feels good, and it’s functional.  I think this is great!  Essentially nobody responded that they felt compelled to ride a bike because of economic duress, lack of a driver’s license, or poor transit connections.  This is in contrast to the general American stereotype that many transportation cyclists have no other choice.  Of course, this is Boulder, and I suspect we didn’t do a particularly good job of getting the survey out to the low income brackets here, but I could be wrong.

Wonderland Trail

By far the most common reason (67%) that people cited (when asked to list three) for not riding their bikes more, was weather.  Following that was needing to carry too much cargo for a bike (35%).  To me, this points out the kinds of classes that we should be focusing on for existing cyclists.  The next two most common reasons were road safety and road conditions, at about 20% each.

Most people (60%) strongly agreed that bike facilities (paths, lanes, etc) were easily accessible from their home, and virtually everyone else at least somewhat agreed (33%).  People were a little more ambivalent about the quality of service provided to bikes in those facilities, especially with respect to the amount of road space dedicated to bikes and the amount/quality of bike parking.

Most respondents (78%) owned a car.  About half had transit passes.  Most also ride at night (78%) and more than half ride in the snow, rain, and when the weather is below freezing.  About half of folks use the bike/ped map or Google Maps bike directions, and 20-30% reported to having some affiliation with Community Cycles (membership, shop use, or having taken a class).  This says to me first that the people who are already riding (and responding to surveys… which I suspect means they “identify” as cyclists) are pretty dedicated.  They’re not casual recreational riders so much.  And second, that we have a lot of room for membership expansion, if we can convince the additional 70-80% of existing cyclists that we can and do represent their interests, and provide useful services to them.


More and better lanes and paths were much more important to people than more parking and better maintenance of existing facilities.  I was surprised to see also that a huge percentage of respondents wanted better inter-city off-street connections.  More than half said this was very important, and another 30% said it was somewhat important.  People are apparently interested in riding between municipalities in Boulder County if they can do it off street.  Another issue that came up, when asking about the quality of facilities, is the quality rather than the quantity of parking.  Multiple people went out of their way to note that there’s plenty of bike parking, but a lot of it is poorly installed.  Bad racks, or racks placed too close to each other, or too close to a wall, or arranged such that a trailer blocks the sidewalk, or incompatible with a bike having front and rear racks, etc.  Better enforcement of bike parking design guidelines would apparently be appreciated.

We also asked about the demographics of the respondents… We got a middle-aged bunch — a bell curve peaking at around 40 years old — with essentially nobody college aged.  I think this is a huge gap in our mindshare.  We should work with CU to get students interested/engaged in bike decisionmaking in Boulder.

The male:female ratio was about 2:1, which is somewhat more female-rich than the photo counts that I’ve been doing (3:1).  Maybe women are more interested in engaging in advocacy/feedback on average?  Essentially all respondents were white, 2/3 of them lived in child-free households.  I don’t know how that compares to Boulder on average, but I think the biking-with-kids population (or, potentially biking-with-kids population) is another obvious target audience that’s wildly under-represented on the paths/lanes/streets based on my counts.  The income distribution was almost perfectly flat… with almost equal numbers of people at all income brackets, from $0 to $100,000.  Weird.

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5 Responses to 2011 Boulder Cyclist Survey Results

  1. Zane Selvans says:

    One reader responded:

    Nice summary. The one thing that caught my attention was:

    Essentially nobody responded that they felt compelled to ride a bike because of economic duress, lack of a driver’s license, or poor transit connections.

    I think that this result is mostly due to selection of survey-takers. I see quite a few people riding bikes who are obviously in economic duress, and I suspect that more people than we think ride for some of these other reasons. It is true that some of these folks might also like to ride a bike, but they are also forced to ride. Roughly 30% of people do not drive because they are too young, too old, or otherwise disabled. Some fraction of those 30% are able to ride a bike, although I do not know what this fraction is. Since only a small fraction of people ride bicycles for any reason, we should assume that a fair fraction of bicyclists are forced to ride. Does anyone know of any controlled studies that might answer this question?

  2. Zane Selvans says:

    I agree that we definitely got a skewed sampling. I’m glad we took some demographic data, so we can see what kinds of people we’re not reaching effectively. I think having a designated bilingual (english-spanish) night would be good, if we could effectively publicize it, and we’ve got to do better at being present in the minds of the CU students, somehow…

  3. Chuck says:

    I don’t think that CU students know CC exists. Some areas for outreach might be soliciting for volunteers, doing some joint actvities with the Environmental Center, or maybe having a much more aggressive bike light/safety campaign on the Hill. how about getting a frat to participate in the winter bike give-away? some random thoughts.

  4. Chuck says:

    Naropa students might also be a good outreach target.

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