Frank Douma, Associate Director (SLPP), Humphrey School of Public Affairs
In a recent paper, researchers examined bicycle commuting rates in the Twin Cities in 1990 and 2000, particularly how changes in commuting rates related to the creation of new bicycle facilities. While some areas near new facilities exhibit very high bike commuting rates, the research found that most of this difference already existed before the facilities were built. However, the facilities did have a small but consistent and statistically significant impact. This provided, to the researchers' knowledge, the first direct measurement of the general impact of bicycle facilities on commute mode share. This research project expanded on the previous results by applying the same methodology to a set of other cities where significant new bicycle facilities were constructed during the 1990s, to see if the results held true elsewhere and to determine reasons if they did not. This work provided much-needed evidence to aid in the evaluation of bicycle facility investment as a strategy for reducing traffic congestion. Researchers concluded that the "build it and they will come" theory is not universally applicable; contextual factors were an important element in determining the effectiveness of new commuting facilities. Among key factors the researchers identified were the level of publicity surrounding new facilities, the utility of routes to commuters, and the overall connectivity of the city's bicycling network. This evidence aided in the evaluation of bicycle-facility investment as a congestion reduction strategy.