Expert Commentary

U.S. immigrants and bicycling: Two-wheeled in autopia

2010 University of California, Los Angeles, study published in Transport Policy on the relationship between bicycle use and riders' immigrant status.

Bicycle commuting is a relatively common in many parts of Europe, China and India, but less so elsewhere. While it is gaining support in the United States — a federal tax break for bicycle commuters became law in 2008 — it remains significantly less popular here than abroad.

In a 2010 study published in Transport Policy, “U.S. Immigrants and Bicycling: Two-wheeled in Autopia,”  a UCLA researcher found evidence of a bicycling “immigrant effect”: Recently arrivals are significantly more likely to commute by bicycle than native-born Americans, but the effect is reduced over time.

The paper finds that:

  • New immigrants are 41 times more likely to choose cycling over driving compared with native-born Americans.  This likelihood is reduced by half in the first four years.
  • The probability of using bicycles falls as incomes rise and immigrants substitute cycling with other forms of transportation.
  • Immigrants from East and Southeast Asia are more likely to use the bicycle compared to other immigrant groups and native-born Americans.

The author suggests that future research look at factors that affect immigrants’ bicycle use to better inform future policy-making. These could include advocacy efforts, addressing transportation constraints that immigrants face and involving immigrants in the bicycle policy planning process.

Tags: bicycling, bicycle, bikes, Asia, Europe

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