Friday, Sept. 4, 2020 | 2 a.m.
Lockdowns and stay-at-home orders from Las Vegas to London to Beijing have resulted in fewer vehicles on roads and a plummet in public transit ridership. The nosedive in day by day commuters has left massive swaths of cities around the globe nothing however a sea of abandoned asphalt in the midst of the day. Amongst those that did enterprise out, many opted for a type of transit most of us discovered to make use of as youngsters — bicycles.
In keeping with the Regional Transportation Fee of Southern Nevada (RTC), use of the bicycle share program in downtown Las Vegas skyrocketed 97% the previous few months in contrast with the identical time final yr. In Might, the e-bike share program noticed a median of a 1,000 rides a day, a rise of 843% in contrast with Might 2019.
Venturing out, one couldn’t assist however discover the throngs of bicyclists on a few of what was once our busiest roads, such Sahara Avenue at Las Vegas Boulevard. The jumps in ridership in Las Vegas comply with related tendencies in different main cities.
Eco-Counter — a Montreal engineering firm that measures pedestrian visitors — discovered a 21% enhance in total U.S. city ridership to date this yr, in contrast with 2019. In New York Metropolis, the bike-share service Citi Bike noticed a rise of 67% initially of March, which continued by means of June, the newest knowledge accessible. Counters on bridges measured vital will increase in bicycle crossings at the beginning of the pandemic earlier than stay-at-home orders have been issued. Rails-to-Trails reported a 110% enhance over 2019 in ridership on rail-trails similar to sections of the Nice American Rail Path that connects Washington, D.C., to Seattle.
The upward pattern is not only in metropolises with sturdy ridership, but additionally in car-dependent western cities like Los Angeles and Oakland, the place ridership and bicycle gross sales within the wake of coronavirus skyrocketed. Knowledge offered by PeopleForBikes confirmed bicycle gross sales up 65% this yr over 2019. In lots of cities, there’s a scarcity of recent bicycles as a result of suppliers haven’t been in a position to sustain with demand.
Ridership has elevated for a number of causes. For one, throughout the pandemic individuals really feel safer on their bicycle than on public transit. It’s deemed comparatively secure when riders preserve 6 ft of distance from every one other, and analysis means that coronavirus transmission is harder in outside settings and when individuals are shifting at variable speeds. Biking has been deemed so secure and economically essential that the U.Ok. authorities included bicycle restore vouchers in its financial restoration plan.
Second, with extra individuals spending time at house, households are in search of one thing to do collectively that retains the children entertained and will get them out of the home. In keeping with Eric Bjorling, director of name at Trek Bicycles, this has led to not solely a scarcity of kids’s bicycles, however every kind of bicycles, from electric-powered to mountain bikes, for adults who’re wanting to get outdoors.
Cities are taking discover. Native governments in New York, Milan, Paris, Mexico Metropolis, Bogota and, sure, Las Vegas are accelerating plans for brand new bicycle lanes. They’re meant to be non permanent or “pop-up” to regulate for the numerous change in city commuter habits, however metropolis planners and bicycle advocates are considering long term. Some dream of what they name the “15-minute metropolis,” the place meals, parks and colleges are inside a 15-minute strolling distance, and the present disaster has allowed metropolis leaders to fast-track these plans.
Clark County Commissioner Justin Jones, a biking advocate, notes that already a number of new bicycle lane tasks within the valley have been fast-tracked, together with a multiuse path from Hualapai Approach to Durango Drive that may lengthen the longer term Crimson Rock Legacy Path, in addition to extra miles of motorbike lanes on Fort Apache Highway and restriping of recent lanes on Torrey Pines Drive.
“Previous to COVID, Clark County was making sluggish, regular progress so as to add extra bicycle lanes,” Jones stated. “COVID proved that if individuals really feel secure, they are going to get out and experience a motorbike on our roadways. Now, extra of those tasks that make biking extra accessible are shifting ahead with better emphasis.”
Jones and others need to reap the benefits of the keenness in bicycling with an annual occasion beginning this fall and a potential future occasion on the Strip as soon as restrictions on social gatherings are lifted.
In downtown Las Vegas, RTC partnered with NV Vitality to construct six extra e-bike sharing programs after demand skyrocketed throughout the state-mandated shutdown. RTC notes that its e-bike program has remained fashionable even after the shutdown and within the midst of utmost warmth. It predicts that by the tip of the yr, the variety of e-bike share rides will double what they have been 2019.
Will it final? Whereas advocates are bullish that the pandemic will change commuters’ habits for the long run, others are extra skeptical over whether or not habits have really modified in car-heavy communities. A part of the skepticism is that planners have rushed by means of new tasks that usually take a number of years to place collectively. In New York, residents in Central Park West sued town final yr over the development of the bicycle lanes. Metropolis planners fear that even when habits shift to utilizing much less public transit and extra bicycling, different commuters will nonetheless select vehicles, inflicting additional congestion and smog on narrower roads.
One factor is evident although: Whether or not or not COVID-19 has modified the habits of city commuters, cities are pedaling ahead.
Andrew Woods is the CEO of WS Nevada a coverage, elections and evaluation agency based mostly in Southern Nevada. He’s ending up his masters on the College of Chicago with a deal with infrastructure and transportation.