Did Millennials Save Cycling?
If there’s one thing we’ve all had enough of from the past year, it’s looking at charts. So I apologise for these, but it’s good news, so bear with me!
You may have read our previous article showing that cycling had really taken off in 2020. Now that more data is available, we can see that it REALLY took off.
Here’s a chart showing the number of people cycling in Navan. The light blue line is 2020. In Week 21 (May 18-24th) there were more than double the number of people out cycling!
I just want to put that in context. The National Cycling Framework (2009-2019) proposed an ambitious goal, to increase cycling by 10% over 10 years, or about 1% per year. And here we are with a 100% increase in one year. Not bad, Navan!
But wait. That’s only the people who use the Strava app. There are lots of other apps for tracking exercise. And lots of people don’t use an app at all. (This lack of good up-to-date data is a problem that we hope to solve by getting involved in the We Count programme, coordinated in Ireland by UCD).
The data from Strava differentiates between leisure cycling and commuting. I’m a little skeptical about this data, because you have to remember to tag a trip every time, so I suspect some of the leisure trips are actually commuting.
For commuting the difference isn’t so stark. It looks like the extra trips were mostly leisure. Although you can see that spike at the end of May where the commuter trips were about 50% up on previous years. Take that, National Cycling Framework!
The weather also had an influence on cycling patterns. Here’s the chart from our local weather station in Dunmoe.
May was especially dry, with only 8 rainy days in 2020, compared with 17 days in 2019. So even without COVID we would probably have seen an uptick in cycling, due to the good weather.
What else do we know about who was cycling? Here’s the last chart, showing the age range of cyclists.
It looks like cyclists got younger! A shift from us old folks (age 35-54) to millennials. That’s pretty unexpected. I’d ask why, but as we all know, millennials don’t have the attention span to read long articles like this … 😛
Interestingly, while some things changed, others stayed the same. No new cycle lanes were added in Navan in 2020, and yet we still saw a huge increase. What’s going on? Isn’t it the lack of cycle lanes that prevents people from cycling?
In other parts of the world they’ve looked at the types of people who cycle, and divided them into categories.
The “strong and fearless” type will cycle regardless of weather, traffic, potholes, you name it. They make up around 5% of the population.
The next 5-10% of people are “enthused and confident”, who are comfortable sharing the roadway with automotive traffic, but they prefer to be separate from traffic.
The third category are “interested but concerned” (dare I say, bike-curious?). These are people who maybe had a bike as a child, but maybe haven’t ridden for years, and won’t cycle on roads shared with other traffic. They might cycle on roads with very little traffic, but much prefer to have a cycle lane to themselves.
As we saw during lockdowns last year, the traffic on the roads was very light. So my guess is that we had lots of “interested but concerned” people out cycling, because we had the right conditions for cycling.
Based on the huge increase in cycling in 2020, there seems to be a growing demand for cycling. We already know that 2021 is going to be very different from most, so we need to put the right conditions in place to allow all types of people to cycle – not just the “strong and fearless”.
What do you think will happen with cycling in Navan this year? Are you “bike-curious”? Are you a millennial who cycles? We’d love to hear from you – leave a comment below!