The latest edition of the Tour de France had me thinking – how popular is cycling in the US? And Where? The Tour de France is clearly a competition like no other. It takes places over 21 days and 2000 miles. Certainly something I can’t imagine myself doing. I do keep thinking I should get a bike though. So who rides?
There are two types of biking to look at. Road biking and Mountain biking. Road biking includes the type of biking they do at the Tour de France – plus riding a bike around town and at the beach. Mountain biking is, well, in the mountains – often on trails. This doesn’t speak to the type of bike people use – just the type of biking they do.
Road biking is the most popular type of biking in the US. About 7.4% of Americans participate in biking. Of course, there are areas in the country where road biking is much more popular than others. It is most popular along the eastern seaboard, areas around Chicago, and in a few areas in the west including Hawaii. It is least popular in the south. Not surprisingly, it’s popular around many large cities too.
One of the zip codes where people are most likely to participate in road biking is 06269, which has an index of 222 meaning residents of that zip code are 2.22 times more likely than the average American to participate in road biking. This zip code is in Storrs, CT and is home to the University of Connecticut. The university has almost 18,000 undergraduates at this campus, many of which live on campus and likely bike to classes. Another zip code with the same index of 222 is 37916, which is Knoxville, TN and home to the University of Tennessee.
What type of person is typically interested in road biking? We can use Tapestry Segmentation to classify consumers. Esri, a geographic information systems company which also does data analysis, developed the Tapestry Segmentation system that classifies US residential neighborhoods into 65 unique market segments based on socioeconomic and demographic characteristics. The segments where residents are most likely to be road bikers are: Boomburbs, Connoisseurs, Dorms to Diplomas, Laptops and Lattes, Metro Renters, Suburban Splendor, The Elders, and Top Rung. Neighborhoods where each of these segments is dominant have an index of 150 or higher meaning they are 1.5 times more likely than the average American to road bike.
Not surprisingly, Dorms to Diplomas neighborhoods are ones made up of mostly students. This demographic often doesn’t have cars and they like and need inexpensive transportation (and they are active).
Mountain biking is a sport that many Americans participate in – though it is not quite as popular as road biking. Approximately 2.8% of Americans participate in mountain biking. Who are they? Where do they live?
Similar to road biking, mountain biking is very popular along the eastern seaboard, around Chicago, and in some areas of the west. One notable difference is Denver. While fewer people are likely interested in mountain biking than road biking there, mountain biking is more popular there than in many other parts of the US. Mountain biking is particularly popular in the 80203 zip code, which is part of Denver. The index for mountain biking here is 193 meaning a resident there is 1.93 times more likely than the average American to participate in mountain biking.
The tapestry segments that are most likely to mountain bike overlap in part with road bikers but are different than others. The segments with residents most likely to mountain bike are Boomburbs, Exurbanites, In Style, Metro Renters, and Metropolitans. Boomburbs and Metro Renters love both road and mountain biking. Exurbanites, In Style, and Metropolitan residents are lovers of mountain biking. It’s clear that not all bikers can be lumped into the same category.
Exurbanites residents, for example, who enjoy mountain biking, prefer an affluent lifestyle in open spaces beyond the urban fringe. Approximately half work in substantive professional or management positions. The median household income is $82,074 and the average age is 46.2.
Why this Matters
How is this useful? Knowing where the road or mountain bikers likely live can help retailers decide where to open a store or stock merchandise. City planners can better decide where to put bike lanes for the road biking enthusiast (or even just the weekend biker). The map below is of west LA, where I live. It shows the likelihood of people participating in road bicycling by census block group as well as the location of bike stores. This information can help retailers decide if there is opportunity to open a new store – and where.
My neighborhood has a lot of road bikers in it. This isn’t surprising given that it’s an active outdoor community with good weather (most of the time). There are also a lot of bike shops to support the cyclists, so it may not be an area of opportunity for a new bike shop. That said, the city did use recent information like this to start putting in more bike lanes. Perhaps I’ll use them one of these days…I guess I need to buy a bike first though. At least I know where the bike shops are located!