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More San Diegans Biking During COVID-19 Pandemic

Ann King-Concialdi bikes through North Park while wearing a face covering, Ap...

Credit: Ann King-Concialdi

Above: Ann King-Concialdi bikes through North Park while wearing a face covering, April 21, 2020.

The San Diego Association of Governments released a report Wednesday showing that bicycle ridership in the county is up more than 40% from 2019, since the statewide stay-at-home order due to COVID-19.

Since the start of the order, SANDAG has tracked data to understand how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted travel in the San Diego region.

The data show that with more people staying closer to home, the choice to use alternative transportation for shorter trips, including outdoor opportunities for recreational and fitness activities, continues to increase.

The report, titled "Bike Riding in the San Diego Region Since COVID- 19," examines bike volumes on eight corridors around San Diego County between mid-March and mid-August 2020, compared to the same period in 2019. The report also shares biking insights from residents and their plans to continue riding.

From April 18 to May 17 — "Month 2" in SANDAG's data set — bicycle traffic was up a whopping 66% from 2019, with Month 3 just behind at 62%. As the weather began to heat up and more people headed back to work in their vehicles, the numbers dropped considerably in months 4 and 5, with bicycle traffic volume up 28% and 22% from the previous year.

Since 2012, SANDAG has monitored bike travel through counters on the regional bikeway network that measure change in bike volumes over time with continuous counts collected and transmitted every 15 minutes.

Since the start of the stay-at-home order, daily volumes increased an average of 42% across the network during the five months in 2020, compared to the same time in 2019.

Additionally, biking volumes were up the most on weekends over the five-month period at 53%, compared to weekdays at 35%. Individual corridor increases ranged from 12% on the Landis Street corridor to 62% on the Inland Rail Trail and Mission Road corridor. A total of 84% of residents surveyed who said they were biking more since the pandemic began said they expect to continue biking even when restrictions are lifted.

In light of the current public health crisis and in recognition of National Bike Month in May, SANDAG created a new pilot program to support local jurisdictions by giving them the opportunity to designate temporary roadway modifications that create safe spaces for people to bike, walk, run, scoot, use a wheelchair and move during the pandemic.

SANDAG awarded 11 jurisdictions funds to help implement temporary Shared Streets pilot projects. The jurisdictions awarded proposed a range of activities such as closing residential streets to through traffic, enhancing signage to alert vehicles of shared streets conditions and closures and creating space for local business patrons to walk, bike and dine outside while maintaining physical distance.

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