The Many Dimensions of Change in Boston, Day 2: Bike Commuting and Bike Infrastructure


Will people bike if cities build the infrastructure to make it safer on the roads? The City of Boston has sought to further develop cycling infrastructure in the last five years, including commitments to bike lanes on reconstructed roads and the launch of several parking-protected bike lanes in the last year. But are people taking advantage of these efforts?


The BARI team found at least one answer to this question in the recently-released ACS data (available on BARI’s Boston Data Portal) for the 5-year estimation period of 2012-2016. The team compared these new data with the last five-year estimation period (2007-2011), which are also available on BARI’s Boston Data Portal, to show how people are making use of the bike infrastructure in Boston.


The data show some modest increases across the board in the proportion of Boston residents who are riding bikes to work every day. In the most recent period, 1.87% of all Boston residents reported commuting primarily by bike, while in the previous time period (before 2012), only 1.32% of residents reported doing so. Despite the sometimes-freezing weather in Boston, more of our city is showing enthusiasm for this sustainable form of transportation in recent years.



Where exactly are these Boston bicyclists, and what roads are they using? The BARI team mapped the most recent ACS data to figure this out. The maps below show census tracts in Boston, with their color indicating the percentage-point change in the percent of residents commuting by bike since the pre-2012 period. Red tracts indicate tracts that increased their bike ridership, while blue tracts decreased their ridership since the last 5-year period. Green lines indicate bike lanes that the city added since 2012.



The broad increase in bike ridership across the city is evident from the mostly-positive change in ridership across census tracts, with a few exceptions. This increase seems concentrated especially in JP, where the most radical increases in bike ridership exist. As far as interpretation goes, it’s pretty hard to make too much of causality here – after all, this is just co-occurrence of bike infrastructure and trends in bike commute adoption. That means that people could be increasing their cycling because of the newly developed bike infrastructure – or it could be unrelated to new bike lanes and paths. Areas such as Allston/Brighton and Dorchester/Neponset have seen some terrific improvement in bike infrastructure since 2012, and have also seen some larger increases in ridership. However, the large increases in ridership in JP are despite the fact that almost all the increases in bike infrastructure in the last five years have been elsewhere – perhaps reflecting the fact that there was already a great deal of bike infrastructure in JP.


Take a look for yourself on the Boston Research Map




To explore the data on BostonMap click here, and to download the raw data from the Data Library, click here.
Check out Many Dimensions of Change in Boston: Day 1 here.

Published On: January 9, 2018 |
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