This is revealed in an American study into the development of bicycle use in the U.S. and Canada since 1990. The study is to be published in Transportation Reseach A.
The number of cycling commuters in the U.S. and Canada has for some years been steadily increasing. In the U.S. the increase was 64% between 1990 and 2009 and the percentage in the modal split rose from 0.4% to 0.6%. In Canada the increase over ten years (1996-2006) came to 42% and the percentage in the modal split rose from 1.1% to 1.3%.
The gains are particularly obvious in a dozen successful towns, where bicycle use doubled. In those towns there was a clear focus on cycling, with local differences in nature and range of the measures. Portland went to great lengths in constructing an extensive cycling network. Minneapolis was very active as well, for instance in the field of bicycle parking. In Vancouver devoted a lot of effort into traffic calming measures and Washington was the first town with a rental bike programme and in linking bicycles and public transport.
New York is a special case. Bicycle policy has been fluctuating over the years and although bicycle use has doubled, it is still far below average. In 1990 for instance New York and Chicago both had a cycling percentage of 0.3%, but by 2009 the percentage in Chicago was twice that of New York (1.2%), despite the construction of quite a number of bike lanes in New York.
Merely constructing bike paths and bike lanes is not sufficient when not accompanied by flanking measures and promotion, as did occur in Portland, leading to a six-fold increase in the percentage of cycling since 1990 , compared to a mere doubling in New York. This also becomes apparent from an analysis of the relation between the size of the bicycle network and bicycle use in 100 U.S. towns. More bike paths and bike lanes do not translate into a proportional increase in cyclists, the data reveal.