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Bicycling by the Numbers

Fact Sheets : Bicycling by the Numbers

How many bicycles are sold each year? Why do people ride? What are the numbers on bicycling crashes? Find answers to these and other questions by reading below.

How many people ride bikes?

The 2002 National Survey of Pedestrian and Bicyclist Attitudes and Behaviors was sponsored by the US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Bureau of Transportation Statistics in order to gauge pedestrian and bicyclists trips, behaviors, and attitudes. 

According to the survey, approximately 57 million people, 27.3% of the population age 16 or older, rode a bicycle at least once during the summer of 2002. The survey breaks this down by gender, age, and race/ethnicity.

Other national transportation-related surveys that include bicycling:

United States Census, 1990 & 2000:
Percentage of journeys to work by bicycle in 1990: 0.41% (466,856 people)

Percentage of journeys to work by bicycle in 2000: 0.38% (488,497 people)*
* Data are based on a sample and are subject to sampling variability.

Nationwide Personal Transportation Survey, 1995:
Percentage of trips: 0.7% (approximately 3 billion miles, and 9 million daily bicycle trips)

Note - Data for the 2001 National Household Survey is available at

National Sporting Goods Association, 2002:
Number of people aged seven and older who participated more than once: 41.1 million.

Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, 2001:
People aged six and older who participated at least once in recreational bicycling: 53.0 million

Why do people ride?

The BTS survey found that in February 2003, of the 20.9 million people riding bicycles the majority reported doing so for exercise/health (41 percent) and recreation (37 percent). Only 5 percent reported commuting to work by bicycle as the primary use of the bicycle during the previous 30 days.

The 2002 National Survey of Pedestrian and Bicyclist Attitudes and Behaviors also reported on the purpose of respondent’s bicycle trips. The survey found that exercise and health for recreation followed the largest percentage of trips.

2002 Purpose of Bicycle Trips:
Recreation 26.0%
Exercise or health reasons 23.6%
To go home 14.2%
Personal errands 13.9%
To visit a friend or relative 10.1%
Commuting to school/work 5.0%
Bicycle ride 2.3%
Other 4.9%

How many bicycles are sold each year?

According to the Bicycle Retailer and Industry News the total US Bicycle Market rose from 15.2 million on 1997 to 16.6 million in 2001. The worsening economy hit the bike market hard in 2001, decreasing from its height in the last five years of 20.6 million in 2000 to 16.6 million in 2001.

How many cyclists are killed and injured each year?

In 2001, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 728 bicyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles and 45,000 were injured. These numbers represent 2 percent of the total number of people killed and injured in traffic crashes. In 2000, the number of fatalities dipped below the 800 mark for the first time in the past decade:

Year Fatalities Injuries
2001 728 45,000
2000 690 51,000
1999 750 51,000
1998 760 53,000
1997 814 58,000
1996 765 59,000
1995 833 61,000
1994 802
1993 816
1992 723
1991 843
1990 859

However, a significant number of bicycle crashes requiring emergency room treatment are not included in these reported fatalities and injuries. Studies indicate that as few as ten percent of injury crashes are reported to the police as they do not involve a motor vehicle, and/or do not happen on the roadway. Indeed, a recent Federal Highway Administration study found that 70 percent of bicycle injury events in emergency rooms did not involve a motor vehicle and 31 percent of bicyclists were injured in non-roadway locations. The number of bicyclists visiting hospital emergency rooms is estimated to be in excess of 500,000 per year.

Who is involved in bicycle crashes?

In 2001, the average age of cyclists killed in crashes with motor vehicles was 36.0 years, up from 28.1 years in 1990. Most of those killed in 2001 were male (91 percent) and between the ages of 5 and 44 (65 percent).

What is the economic cost of crashes involving bicyclists?

The Federal Highway Administration estimates that the comprehensive cost of each person killed in a traffic crash to be $2,900,000 (2000 dollars). Multiplying this number by the 728 bicyclists killed in 2000 totals $2.1 billion.
(explanation of calculation)

A 1991 study, The Costs of Highway Crashes by the Urban Institute and Federal Highway Administration, calculated the average nonfatal injury cost per person involved in a motor vehicle crash. In 2000 dollars, the average nonfatal injury cost per person involved in a motor vehicle crash is $61,375. Multiplying this number by the 51,000 reported injury crashes in 2000 totals $3.1 billion.

How many bicycles are stolen each year?

In 2001, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported an estimated 7,076,000 "larceny/thefts" of which 4.1 percent, or approximately 290,000, accounted for bicycle thefts. The average value of a stolen bicycle was estimated at $318, giving a total estimated loss due to bicycle thefts of approximately $92.3 million. The National Bike Registry estimates that the FBI only hears about one-third of the bicycles stolen each year.

How safe do people feel bicycling?

The Omnibus Survey completed for the Bureau of Transportation Statistics in February 2003 asked all respondents how safe they felt using different modes of transport. When asked how safe they felt:

How satisfied are you with how your local community is designed for making bike riding safe?
22.57 percent were Very Satisfied
31.32 percent were Somewhat Satisfied
17.55 percent were Neither Satisfied, nor Dissatisfied
16.84 percent felt Somewhat Dissatisfied
11.73 percent felt Very Dissatisfied

How much has been spent by the Federal Government on improving conditions for bicycling?

In the years before passage of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991(ISTEA), Federal spending on bicycling and walking facilities was approximately $4-6 million per annum. ISTEA was reauthorized when the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) was enacted on June 9, 1998, which authorized Federal surface transportation programs for highways, highway safety, and transit for the 6-year period from 1998-2003. By FY 2002 spending of Federal funds by States has grown to more $416 million.

Year Obligation (in millions)
2002 $416
2001 $339
2000 $296
1999 $204
1998 $217
1997 $238.7
1996 $197.2
1995 $178.6
1994 $112.6
1993 $33.6
1992 $22.9
1991 $17.9
1990 $6.6
1989 $5.4
1988 $4.9

In September 2003 The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2003 (SAFETEA) will go into effect. SAFETEA’s goal is to make “substantial improvements in the safety of the Nation's surface transportation” by more than doubling “funding for highway safety improvements over TEA-21 levels through a new core highway safety infrastructure program in lieu of the existing Surface Transportation Program safety set-aside”.