Part of being an Optimist is finding the silver lining in any situation, no matter how dire it may be. In the case of Covid-19, one of the positive trends to emerge from the pandemic is a surge of cycling within American cities.
According to new data from Strava, the fitness tracking app used by 68 million global users, several US cities saw significant year-over-year growth in both bike trips and cyclists in much of 2020. The biggest surprise amongst US cities comes from Los Angeles and Houston, two cities hardly known for cycling. Before the pandemic, only 1 percent of the Los Angeles population biked to work. That number was even lower in Houston, where just .5 percent of the population biked to work in pre-pandemic times.
But this year, the total volume of cycling trips in Houston was 138 percent higher in May 2020 than in May 2019. In Los Angeles, the jump was 93 percent. These cities aren’t alone in seeing an uptick in cycling trips.
After April, New York City witnessed a steady rise in cycling in the ensuing months, with nearly 80 percent year-over-year growth in trips for July. Meanwhile, Chicago saw a more modest increase, with a 34 percent increase in July.
Although the numbers reflect cycling trips taken by Strava users in these cities, cycling experts on the ground confirmed that the new Strava numbers are consistent with data from local bike-counters and bike-share systems. In Houston, for example, one popular trail has seen a 162 percent increase in trips from January to August.
All in all, the numbers point to a positive health trend emerging from a less positive one—and that’s something we hope will continue.