The impact of cycle lanes on the modal share of cycling

Increasing the share of active travel is high on the agenda of many cities, in their attempt to decrease the carbon footprint of transport and creating healthier cities.

In this story we take a look at the impact of building bikeways, cycle lanes, etc. on increasing the modal share of cycling, i.e., the proportion of cycling among all the transport options available.

The interactive map below shows a selection of the relevant evidence available in the Urbanixm knowledge engine. The knowledge engine is in a proof-of-concept state of development and more evidence will be added over time.

In the following sections we briefly discuss the available evidence and formulate conclusions but encourage readers to follow links to the original content to get a in-depth understanding of the topic.


When we try to establish causal relationships between cycling infrastructure investment and a change in the change in modal share of cycling, there are many things to consider.

We can look at the multi-year change in modal share in cities that have gone through large scale investment in cycle lanes.

  • Between 2009 and 2014, New York City and Washington DC saw a doubling in cycle commuting at the same time they invested in segregated cycle lanes [Streetsblog].
  • In Seville, the number of daily cycling trips rose from 6,000 rides to 70,000 over a three year period as the city built up a cycle lane network [The Guardian].

However, in these cases, cycle lanes are just one of many infrastructure changes that may have affected the cycling modal share, such as the installation of a bike share system or other road changes.

A more direct measurement of the impact of a cycle lane would be to look at the cycling traffic along a particular road segment before and after a bike lane was installed.

  • A cycling track along a heavily trafficked road in Vejle, Denmark saw a 48% increase in cycling-to-school for children in a nearby school [Cycling Solutions].
  • Commonwealth Avenue in Boston saw an 80% increase in cycling traffic after it was upgraded from a paint-only cycle lane to a protected cycle lane [Better Bike Share].

However, when we focus only on the particular segments, we may loose sight of whether there is an overall change in modal share of cycling or just a route replacement for existing cyclists.

The ideal situation is thus if we can simultaneously track the changes along the bike lane and across the city as a whole.

It is also important to look at longitudinal studies to go beyond the effect of temporary changes such as was the case when cities installed temporary cycle lanes in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic

  • Jakarta saw a 50-500% increase in cycling along some routes after it added pop-up cycling lanes in response to the pandemic [ITDP].

We will have to wait to see if these temporary measures lead to sustained changes in modal share of cycling or if they will reverse back to the pre-pandemic levels.

Further reading

For a tailor made analysis of the topic, Börkur Sigurbjörnsson offers data storytelling consultancy services producing detailed reports or presentations.

Author: Börkur Sigurbjörnsson

Börkur Sigurbjörnsson is a data and information scientist who discovers and communicates data-driven insights through storytelling and helps early-stage startups put ideas into action.

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