Santa Clara County Bike survey gives insights vs. the Netherlands

SVBC screenshot of Mineta Transportation survey results


A recent survey by the Mineta Transportation Institute, part of San Jose State University, takes a deep dive into transportation likes and dislikes of cyclists and other commuters.

It’s a lot to digest, so I’ll do a series of articles.

Funding for the administration of the survey was provided by the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC) and the Santa Clara County Department of Public Health.

The survey was conducted online, recruiting participants through online ads. 1009 people responded in Santa Clara County. Already there is some bias since not everyone has online access. That’s one reason why the survey says its results have an error of +- 3 percent.

Conducted from March 6-13, the COVID19 lockdown had not yet been implemented, so results are reflective of conditions prior to the pandemic.

I’m going to compare these results to the Netherlands, the number one bicycling nation. The Netherlands has a lot going for it in terms of flat terrain and relatively mild weather. But most importantly, cities are much denser than the Bay Area’s suburbs.

Santa Clara County: Let’s start with the kind of transportation most people use. In an average week, 89 percent of Santa Clara County respondents reported driving a vehicle, while only 12.5 percent rode a bike, for recreation or otherwise.

Netherlands: 47 percent of Netherlanders drive a car, followed by 27 percent for cycling. Much to my surprise, only 5 percent of trips are by train, subway, bus and tram.

Looking at how people in Amsterdam get to work, the bike rules. 48 percent ride to work (more now; these are 2016 numbers), while only 21 percent drive. In rural areas of Netherlands, cars have a larger role in transportation.

Cutting the Santa Clara County data some more, 3 percent of cyclists ride daily, 7 percent a few times a week, and 12 percent a few times a month, according to survey results.

People who ride for utilitarian reasons — not recreation — are more likely to have lower incomes, come from another country, and be younger.

Those who rode as a child/teenager are much more likely to ride as adults. That’s why school programs that encourage cycling need our full support.

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