07 November 2007

How Much Do You Ride?

Bike Lane Inhabitants (by [Zakkaliciousness])
A classic Copenhagen bike lane with Copenhageners doing what they do best.

We found a spot of statistics from Eurobarometer about how many kilometres a year citizens of EU countries ride bikes on average.

There is a massive difference between top and bottom.

The Netherlands.............1019 km
Denmark..........................958 km
Belgium............................327 km
Germany.........................300 km
Sweden............................300 km
Finland.............................282 km
Ireland.............................228 km
Italy..................................168 km
Austria.............................154 km
Greece................................91 km
France................................87 km
UK......................................81 km
Luxembourg....................48 km
Portugal............................35 km
Spain.................................24 km

Here's the figures for North America:
USA/Canada...................30 km

Netherlands and Denmark on top... hardly a surprise.

For us Finland's very respectable finish is a pleasant surprise. Nice one. Ireland, too.
A bit surprising that the UK is so far down the list with a paltry 81 km a year, considering the impressive push for bike culture in the country.

Spain and Portugal? Shocking. Don't give us the 'it's hot' excuse. Even Greece is way ahead of you. :-)

The figures for USA and Canada are nothing to write home about, either. But there are so many bike advocates in certain cities over there that this number is sure to rise.

All in all, these numbers have to rise. There is so much focus on urban biking these days. Everybody wants to "Copenhagenize" their cities. So much good energy in London, Zürich, Munich and many North American cities.

Norway plans on doubling the amount of trips by bike by 2015 and Sweden has plans on drastic increases, too.

Even Denmark in general, and Copenhagen in specific, are actively working towards increasing ever aspect of biking.

Work to be done, all around. Good luck to all involved.


Ana Pereira said...

I wouldn't trust those numbers too much. If it says people in Portugal use their bikes more than the people in Spain, it's got to be wrong. Compare the facilities, companies, the Bicing, the Sevici, etc, etc. We have nothing like that over here. People here use their bikes for sport, the bike commuters, although visibly growing in numbers, are still very rare...

Steve Nordstrom said...

I have ridden over 2000 miles (3200 km) this year since I got my bike in April. I guess I'm making up for all the other people in my apartment complex's lack of biking, but my contribution is just a drop in the bucket, and here's why.

It seems that a calculation like this would be terribly difficult to determine, much less trust well enough to draw any real conclusions. There are only 16.5 million people living in the Netherlands; the U.S. has 303.3 million. The U.S. has 18.38 times the number of people as does the Netherlands. That makes it 18.38 times harder to affect the U.S. mileage per person. Hence, the problem of comparing disparate populations probably also accounts for Britain's (59.5 million), France's (61.5 million), Italy's (58.1 million), and Spain's (40.4 million) poor showings. Portugal's (10.6 million) numbers are simply abysmal, however. Interestingly, though, is Germany (82 million), which has really respectable figures coming in at 300 km/person/year.

One thing is certain, however. Regardless of whether there are 10 million or 100 million people in the country, the Netherlands' and Denmark's citizens are putting some serious mileage on their bikes, and rightfully deserve our attention and acclaim. Maybe we'll see more bikes on the road when gas is $7.52/gal. like in the Netherlands, or $6.95/gal. like in Denmark (source: http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/energy/2007-04-19-world-gas_N.htm)

radzi said...

interesting stats, so it's distance/total population? I shudder to think what Australia would be like then, since only about 1% of Aussies commute on a bike. Though I think we do tend to cover more distance where 15km one-way commutes are pretty normal. I average about 600-700 a month just commuting, but get over 1600 a month especially during warmer months since I ride for fun a lot more.

16:9 said...

hi ana. it's a narrow difference between portugal and spain. maybe there are secret villages somewhere in portugal where people ride around at night and THAT gets the numbers up... :-)

hi steve:
thanks for commenting.
I don't get the comparision between Netherlands and the US.
But if you take all the EU countries on the list there is a total population of 450 million [compared to 303 million in the US] and the average amount of kilometres per person on a bike in the EU countries listed is 273 km-

Which is perhaps a better comparison.

I don't see a relation between population size and bike culture. Large countries like Germany have long been more 'green' than the UK or France. It's really more of a cultural issue, I think. If you know what I mean.

Regarding petrol prices, yes it is more expensive than in the US and it sounds dreadfully expensive when you convert the currency.

An important thing to consider is, however, that our standard of living is different. Petrol IS expensive, but we can afford it with the wages we get. To an American $7 per gallon sounds insane... to us it's the price of petrol and we buy it.

Glad to hear you're riding so much. Where are you located in the States?

hi radzi:
I saw these stats somewhere else, too, where Australia was listed. I seem to recall that the numbers were similar to the North American numbers. About 60-70 km if memory serves.

radzi said...

Yeah I certainly expect it no more than the figures for the States. I do agree that it's a cultural issue in particular the popular perspective towards cycling as a mode of transportation. Car culture is very deeply entrenched in here like in the States, bikes simply aren't seen as transport for most people, despite the fact that some cities do have quite good cycling infrastructure - like my city Canberra for instance.

This is what the main artery roads look like in my city, with dedicated bike lanes, also the footpaths/sidewalks on the left are shared pedstrian/bicycle paths. The shared path network is quite extensive, nevertheless the percentage of people who use a bike to get to work was only 2.13% according to the census last year.

Anonymous said...

No, it's no surprise that the US figures are so low, but it would be interesting to get the same figures for some of the cycling "hot spots" within the US, such as Minneapolis, Chicago, Denver, Seattle, and, of course, Portland. The country overall treats bikes as toys, but there are signs of change. Personally, I have been riding at least 6000 miles (10,000 km) per year (commuting miles only, not including recreation) for several years now, and have a hard time convincing myself to drive even in extreme situations. It can be done here, and is being done more every day. Val

Zakkaliciousness said...

Thanks for the cool insight into Canberra bike life, radzi.

and more power to you and people like you, anon!

Steve Nordstrom said...


I used to live in France and Switzerland for a while, and I agree its a cultural thing (although I saw way more mopeds, scooters, and buses there than I saw cyclists). That comparison of all of Europe average vs. the U.S. is a better comparison than a country-by-country comparison.

I'm located in Nashville, TN. And I'm sad to say, in the eight months I've been commuting almost every day by bike, I can count on my fingers the number of times I've met other cyclists going the same direction as me on the road in the morning, and about the same coming home in the evening.

Here in Nashville, there are a fair number of people who ride for recreation and sport. In the summer on the weekends, there are lots of lycra-clad cyclists with expensive bikes riding the roads just outside town (and I'm one of them, minus the über-expensive bike). But I just don't see them on the roads commuting on their bikes, and now that its in the 30s (1-3 degrees C) in the morning, most have put away their bikes for the winter. One other barrier, I think, is the hills around town: my commute home includes a hill with a vertical climb of 360 ft. (110 m) over 1.75 miles (2.8 km).

The other, more general problem, I think, is the rather high cost to enter the cycling world and have it actually be fun: most Americans are extremely reluctant to buy a bike that costs $500 or more because they see it as a fun childhood pasttime, not a means of transportation or a way to get some great exercise. Unfortunately, they buy sub-$200 bikes that if they try to ride any distance greater than around the neighborhood, find them uncomfortable, that their inferior parts break down incessantly, etc. (I know one guy who DOES buy these cheap bikes instead of a good one; he's on his third in 15 months.) That means they never reach that point where they say, "Wow, that was really fun; I can't wait to ride to work again." or "Wow, riding can be exhilarating with a bike that shifts easily, rolls smoothly, and pedals without sounding like something's breaking." My $900 bike (with full 105 set) is the best investment I've ever made, but I had no small amount of trepidation in buying it, not sure if I would actually use the bike enough to make it worth that much money.

IMO, there's little reason why cycling equipment and apparel needs to cost so much; it simply prices too many people out of the sport and the lifestyle. Which begs the question: do cyclists and the companies that produce cycling products really want to grow the sport, or are they trying to keep the roads clear of other cyclists so they can ride in clear lanes?

Zakkaliciousness said...

Hey Steve,
I agree completely with how the prohibitive cost of bike gear restricts the number of cyclists.

I think it's because it's a hobby, a sport, in North America. If something is a hobby or a sport and the market is a group of people who are passionate about gear and whatnot, the prices go up.

If it is a broad cultural pursuit, run of the mill everyday stuff, then the price falls.

I can [loosely] compare it to organic food here in Denmark. Five years ago organic products were expensive, because they catered to a small group of environmentally-conscious consumers.

Now everything is organic and the prices have fallen drastically.

When bike culture becomes an everyday thing, prices fall, products aimed at the new market are made accessible, etc.

If 50 million Americans all of a sudden wanted to ride to work and do it at a reasonable price, you can bet your bottom dollar that products would show up out of nowhere to cater for them.

i used to buy cheap bikes but I've learned, along with others, that for a decent bike you shouldn't go lower than 3500 kroner [690 USD].

Kind of like the rule of thumb for a bottle of wine. 35 kroner and up and you're getting a decent bottle. Under 30 kroner and you're risking it.

Nyall Engfield said...

In Canada and most of the U.S., distances are so vast that it is inconceivable that people use bicycles. The area that can and must be changed is bicycle use in the cities. Furthermore, there is a much greater car-culture mindset that must be overcome before bicycling is "cool" or "safe". Check out Canadian Cycling Blog where my efforts to change these perceptions are documented.

ganesha said...



Zakkaliciousness said...

Sure Nyall, it might not be feasible to commute from Moose Jaw to Saskatoon each morning... :-)

We are focused on urban cycling since that is where traffic congestion exists most and where the population has the chance to commute.

i've commuted from southern Calgary to downtown and all around Vancouver. In Calgary it was a nightmare... i found myself up on the sidewalk like a 6 year old kid.

In Vancouver there is progress, with bike lanes popping up, but there is still a long way to go.

Thanks for the blog link. We'll check it out.

and thanks to you, Ganesha! Great to see an Argentine visiting the blog! Good luck and take care.

Anonymous said...

Hello ! I'm french. Here very few people dare to ride bike. And most of them, it's for sport ride. Perhaps 1 or 2 % takes bike to move. I'm one of them since I have sold my car a long time ago, and I am ashamed of french people : when it's warm its too warm and when it's cold it's too cold ! I whent in north of Europe by bike those years for hollidays and I love it. Copenhagen is great !!

Zakkaliciousness said...

Thanks for the comment, Anon.!
The French are getting better, especially Nice and Paris.

john said...

I was very interested in the figures for Ireland we are Midway down the List.We were always a great Cycling Nation out of Necessity in the Past up to around 1970 and then we started getting more Prosperous and a lot adopted the Car. But still there was a Hard core of People that always used Bikes, and now it is reversed with more People using Bikes for Transport and keeping Fit,and so more Cycling Infrastructure.With Cycling Lanes and Parking Racks being put in. This is Partly due to the Insistance of Brussels to improve things for Cyclists and also Cycling Organisations and not the Irish Government.

Anonymous said...

An a Spanish, I feel embarrased of that number. I usually ride about 40 km a week just to go to the high school and to the language school. And I even have to add the "Sunday rides", depending on the day, 20 km more. But people in my city (Almería) have an excuse. It is extremely hilly. Wherever you go, you've got to climb a slope, so a lot of people refuse cycling. Hot climate is not an excuse, the wind blowing in your face cools you enough to keep riding.

Antranik said...

Those are amazing numbers. I will use them on my green-cycles.com website (promoting electric bicycles) to make the case for linking the happiest people on earth, with those who bike all the time!!! <3

Ingo said...

These numbers are definitely not from the eurobarometer. I guess you have it from http://ec.europa.eu/environment/archives/cycling/cycling_en.pdf

If so, please have a look at page 19. The numbers there show quite a different picture.

Mikael said...

i get them from the Danish newspapers who publish them when they come out and they always quote Eurobarometer.

Hobbes vs Boyle said...

Antanik: The pdf you linked shows the same numbers, and they do cite Eurobarometer as their source. It's interesting to note, though, that the Eurobarometer numbers are 20 years old! I would be really curious to see what they would like now. I did a bit of research and for Germany I found numbers from 2006: 337km, or about a 10% increase from 1991.

The other problem, of course, is the methodology. Eurobarometer data is based on survey, and one must wonder how accurate data based on that can be. Who but "serious" cyclists (i.e. racers) keeps track of their annual mileage? If you're a regular bike commuter, you can extrapolate by multiplying the distance of your commute by the number of days, but for trips to the shop, for leisure, etc. I totally would not be able to make a guess with any hope of being accurate. Additionally, there is the problem of social desirability: I would expect people to overreport their cycling in countries with a strong bike/"green" culture; whereas in countries where cycling is associated with low status, people will likely underreport their cycling.

Aside from these problems: I find it interesting that there seems to be a tiered distribution: NL and DL on top, then with a huge gap the middle tier (Belgium to Austria), and then the bottom with countries of less than 100 km/year and person. I would be curious about the shift of countries between tiers over time.

Hobbes vs Boyle said...

Oh, sorry, I addressed my comment to Andranik instead of to Ingo. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

5800km annually only counting going to and from work.

That's quite a short commute for around here, from suburb to city.

It ranges from -12C to 36C in temperature.

So yes, I often carry a change of clothes, but I do usually wear "street clothes" and not cycling outfits on the bike.

Style doesn't figure into it.
I just ride, style may or may not happen, comfort matters more.

If slow stylish people are blocking my way I politely call out and pass them.