Report finds San Diego saw 71% increase in biking since 2019
A new report on biking trends across the country found the San Diego metropolitan region saw a 71% increase in biking from 2019 to 2022 — the second largest increase in the country.
The report from consulting firm Streetlight Data is based on national travel surveys and anonymized cell phone location data. It also measured a 37% increase in average daily bike trips across the country.
"Biking boomed, and that boom was sustained," said Emily Adler, director of content for Streetlight Data.
Only New York City saw more growth in biking than San Diego, with a 96.9% increase. The report also ranked metro regions in terms of bike trips per capita. In those rankings, San Diego jumped from 16th to 5th behind Sacramento, San Jose, San Francisco and New York.
Three years ago, the San Diego Association of Governments, which maintains a handful of bike counters across the county, reported a 42% increase in bike trips comparing the first five months of the pandemic to the same time period in 2019.
But while those counters measure only specific locations, the report from Streetlight Data relies on machine learning to analyze a much larger data set. Despite the company's name, the report does not rely on footage or data from San Diego's "smart streetlights," which are used by police to investigate crimes.
"We think that big data has such an important role to play in being able to actually measure transportation activity across (travel) modes, and also see the impact of policy and big cultural shifts," Adler said.
The report does not attempt to draw conclusions on why biking increased in certain regions, though Adler suggested San Diego's sunny weather, the disruption to travel behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic and the region's investment in bike infrastructure could have played a role.
"We have a lot more people biking," Adler said. "Hopefully that's in part because the infrastructure is there. If the infrastructure is not there, what do we need to do to protect those people as well as accelerate that trend?"
Anar Salayev, executive director of BikeSD, said he was surprised San Diego ranked so highly in the report. While several new bike projects have opened up in the past few years, he said, those bike lanes are not always connected to each other, leaving large gaps in the network where cyclists have to brave high-speed corridors with no protection from cars.
Still, Salayev said he hoped the report will dispel the notion that no one bikes in San Diego and that bike lanes are a waste of time and money.
"There is a demand for biking in San Diego," Salayev said. "I hope that (city leaders) would be more galvanized and willing to nurture and encourage more of that ridership."
While the growth in biking is welcome news for San Diego's climate goals, driving has also increased since the COVID-19 pandemic. Cars remain the city's largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, and the city is not on track to achieve its target of fully offsetting its carbon footprint by 2035.