Did you get outside for fresh air during the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic? According to StreetLight Data – a mobility data analytics company that, among other things, uses smartphones as sensors to measure activity on streets - Hampton Roads was one of several major cities that had an increase in total bicycle miles traveled in May 2020 compared to May 2019.
The COVID-19 pandemic affected the daily routine of many across the country, with some people getting outside more and some less. According to new StreetLight data, urban areas like New York City (New York/New Jersey Metropolitan), Boston, San Fransisco, Chicago, and the District of Columbia saw major decreases in bicycle activity. Even though these cities are notably bike-friendly, there were fewer people commuting by bicycle. However, in more suburban areas like Hampton Roads, Knoxville, Columbia, and Provo, there was an increase in bicycling according to StreetLight. Several variables could affect these statistics, including localized weather during these periods; state or local government mandates on businesses, schools, and public spaces; and geographical locations. Overall though, it appears that in more densely populated areas, there were fewer bicycle commuters and in the areas like Hampton Roads, people got outside more to enjoy the trails and destinations.
For our region, the Virginia Capital Trail in James City County, equipped with permanent counters, is a prime example of the increase in bicyle usage during the pandemic. According to Virginia's Statewide Bicycle and Pedestrian Count Network, the Greensprings portion of the Virginia Capital Trail's users grew over 71% from March to July in 2020 compared to the same time period in 2019 (see Figure 1). Figure 2 shows that the growth month-by-month has been very consistent since March. Once the pandemic started, people in Hampton Roads started to get out more than normal.
HRTPO staff will continue to monitor the effects of the pandemic on all modes of transportation. In the meantime, get outside, stay safe, and enjoy what our region has to offer.