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Who’s cycling in Champaign-Urbana? What about whenwhere, and why? A few months ago you guys answered some questions about cycling and your lifestyle. Here’s some of the data we got.

Neutral Cycle is building a program called Active Chambana. Its purpose is to promote active lifestyles by providing resources to help the people of C-U to understand and identify healthy options that work for them – walking, running, cycling, eating, etc. – and assist them in integrating these into their daily lives. While this post looks at data about cycling, Active Chambana goes beyond just bikes.

Because this program is for Champaign-Urbana, we wanted to build it with Champaign-Urbana, so we reached out to you. The response was overwhelming. 327 of you helped us out by completing a survey and letting us know who you are and how cycling fits into your lives.

Knowledge is power. The more we all know about cycling in C-U, the better we can develop it. For that reason, we want to share our data with everyone. We want other people and organizations to be able to use it to do their part to help create the healthy, active cycling hub that we know C-U has the potential to be. We’re all part of Chambana and by working together, we can achieve a lot. All of us have our own ways of helping.

In this post we’ll be looking at who in C-U is cycling, as well as when, where, and why. We’ll be focusing on how respondents belonging to different age cohorts answered these questions differently. We’ll then compare what we found in C-U with what we see in the U.S. and beyond. We would like to caution that the respondents to our survey do not necessarily constitute a representative sample of the population. Survey respondents were self-selected from the subset of residents who heard about the survey through social media or word of mouth. That said, I think we can still learn a lot from what we found.

Who among you is cycling?

For all the data presented in this post, we’ve put respondents into three cohorts based on age, and compared how these three cohorts patterned. The first group are people 24 and younger. This group comprises students and emerging professionals transitioning to adult life. The second group are young professionals and graduate students, those residents who are typically in later stages of their academic life or are becoming settled into professional life. The third stage is those who are 35 and older. This cohort is more established and settled than the other two, and the people that comprise it often have children.


Like we mentioned, our respondents were self-selected, so these numbers do not represent the entire population, but they do represent people interested enough in cycling to complete our survey. I think the biggest take-home message about this is that there are a lot of students and younger people here who are interested in cycling, but who are not currently active bike riders. This may be because people falling into this age cohort tend to have less money and may feel like they can’t afford to bike. Are there other issues at play, too? We should ask ourselves how we, as a community, can make biking more accessible to them.

Nationwide, there are differences with respect to how many people in each age group bike. Broken down into the three age cohorts we’re looking at, ≤24, 25-34, and ≥35, the numbers are 15%, 19%, and 16%, respectively. Just as in the whole of the U.S., C-U residents falling in the middle age cohort are the most likely to bike.

Where are you cycling?


When it comes to where people bike for leisure, age cohorts are pretty consistent with respect to the first three categories: biking in the neighborhood, biking in parks and other community centers, and biking along bike paths. There are more notable differences in the latter two categories.

Using bikes for transportation to community events, like the Farmers’ Market, is much more common for those in the 24-35 age bracket. This is likely accounted for by two reasons. The first is that, unlike those in the younger cohort, those in this group are more settled within the community and may be more likely to be interested in community events. The second is that a lot fewer of the respondents in the middle cohort had children than those in the 35+ cohort. This makes it easier for them to just hop on their bike and head to an event. Differences in the use of cars or busses to get to bike trails may have to do with the lower levels of car ownership among young people. Taking your bike via bus may take a long time or be awkward or impossible, making it disfavored.

When are you cycling?

We’ve written about winter cycling in the past. It may not seem so important at first glance, but upon closer inspection, it’s clear that it’s an essential part of developing a sustainable cycling culture. Nordic countries, where cycling is well-integrated into daily life, have high rates of winter cycling, despite their bitterly cold winters. The use of bikes in the winter is an important step in bikes being seen as a viable form transportation that can truly compete with cars and public transportation, regardless of what it’s like outside.

So how are we doing?


57% of respondents rode their bikes in the winter. In other words, that’s a 42% drop in winter cyclists. The most likely to bike in the winter were in the 25-34 age cohort, with 69% braving the cold. For the younger and older cohorts, winter bikers comprised 42% and 65% respectively. Compared to other cities in the U.S., this puts us in a pretty good position. In Portland, the biking Mecca of the U.S., we see an almost equal drop of 43%In Chicago, there’s an 80% drop in the number of people who bike to work in winter months. In Lund, Sweden, though, just as many people bike in the winter as do in the summer.

Road and bike path conditions often play a big roll in whether or not people want to bike in the winter. In our discussions with C-U cyclists, this has often come up as the biggest impediment to winter cycling. In places like Copenhagen, where 80% of cyclists bike through the winter, they pre-treat paths before a snow, begin removal soon after it begins, and make multiple passes with their plow to ensure the path is clear. If we want to foster year-round cycling, this is undoubtedly an important area where we, as a community, can improve.

Why are you cycling?


There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on here, but we’ll focus on just three things.

  • Younger cyclists are less likely to be involved with groups who cycle. This is likely due to their more transitory nature within our community, making them less likely to make these sort of connections. It may also indicate a lack of a preference for making biking a more organized activity.
  • Both the under-24 cohort and the 25-34 cohort are extremely likely to use a bike to get to and from work. This is probably because people in these age cohorts are more likely to live close to campus or the business districts, making their commute significantly easier. A study by the United States Census Bureau found that in Urbana 5.8% of residents bike to work.
  • Using bikes to run errands is significantly more common for those in the 25-34 cohort. Again, the relative lack of children is probably a big part of this. It’s also probably due to living closer to business districts.

Do you have any suggestions for how we can explain some of the differences we see here? Do you disagree with any of the analyses we’ve offered? Let us know! This post is the first in a multi-part series about our survey results. Keep your eyes open for new posts in the future!

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