By Joseph Rose, The Oregonian
October 23, 2009, 8:09AM
Despite the belief that bicyclists are getting a free ride, a new survey shows most bike commuters also own and drive cars.
Nearly nine out of 10 bicyclists in Oregon and southwest Washington also own and drive automobiles, according to a new survey on bike “perceptions and experiences.”
The statistics from the report by Inavero Institute, a Portland research and survey development firm, appear to contradict the contentious belief held by some motorists and lawmakers that bicyclists don’t pay their way on the roads.
In the Oregon Legislature last spring, Gold Beach Republican state Rep. Wayne Krieger proposed a bill requiring licensing and a special tax on cyclists to pay for bike lanes and other projects to improve safety for two-wheeled commuters. The proposal died quickly, but the idea persists as number of bicyclists climbs.
However, the study, commissioned by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance in Portland, showed even the most avid cyclists regularly drive, paying gas taxes and licensing fees.
While the average number of bicycles owned by respondents increases with skill level, “the skill level of the cyclist does not have a direct impact on whether someone owns an automobile,” according to Inavero.
The online survey’s 2,000 respondents were broken down into four categories of bicyclist: Noncyclist, beginner, intermediate and advanced.
Ninety-one percent of “noncyclists” owned at least one car. Advanced cyclists owned at least one motor vehicle in addition to an average of 4.5 bike, according to the survey.
Not surprisingly, noncyclists were nearly twice as likely to own three or more cars than any group. At the same time, more than 14 percent of participants from Southeast, Northeast and North Portland reported not owning a car, which was significantly higher than other areas.
Critics likely will be quick to dismiss the survey because it was conducted for the region’s largest bicycle advocacy group. Indeed, the BTA has already argued that widespread car ownership by bike commuters is one reason why a $19 automobile registration fee for Sellwood Bridge improvements, including a wider bike path, is fair.
What’s more, not even in the BTA considers the results of volunteer survey over the Internet a scientific study. But the alliance says the results provide a wealth of information about how people view bicycling and the BTA’s work.
Fifty-eight percent of the 2,000 people who took the survey rated themselves as an “experienced” or “advanced” cyclist. About 85 percent have a four-year college degree or higher and many were affluent, with about 30 percent reporting income above 90 percent.
The report also includes detailed information about the public’s perceptions of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance’s advocacy efforts. Nearly half of the participants are current BTA members, Inavero said,
“We learned that advocacy and education are the two priorities of our members,” said Scott Bricker, BTA executive director. “The results also show that local, regional and state advocacy are key for members; people, including past members want to see more advocacy in communities outside the Portland Metro region.”
Other key findings in the report set to be released Monday:
- Noncyclists rely on travel by automobile for nearly two-thirds of their weekly trips, while advanced cyclists take roughly half of their trips by bike.
- Roughly 20 percent of trips are taken by foot each week –regardless of propensity to ride a bicycle.
- Eugene leads in percentage of weekly trips taken by bicycle, while Southwest Portland has the lowest percentage of weekly trips conducted by bicycle — followed by the Beaverton/Hillsboro area.
- The survey also provided more evidence that perceived safety on the roads has a direct link to bike ridership in a neighborhood. Those who rate bicycling safety in their community a 10 (out of 10) ride their bike more than twice as often in an average week compared to those who rate safety a 0 or 1.
- Nearly 40 percent of all bicycling trips are for commuting purposes.
Download a PDF of the full report.