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I have cycled a lot in Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Canada, and the UK, and I have also cycled in Belgium, France, Switzerland, Norway, Finland, Iceland, and the USA. The quality and quantity of cycling infrastructure varies considerably between regions. Some of this correlates with population density (urban/rural) or landscape (flat/hilly)¹, but that is far from the complete explanation.

Within countries with good cycling infrastructure, I have not noticed that the presence of cycling infrastructure in a particular area is correlated with how progressive or conservative people vote there. In The Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Finland, or Norway, I have the impression infrastructure is anywhere from decent to excellent everywhere, regardless of whether councils are run by greens or conservatives. Conservative London Mayor Boris Johnson famously expanded cycling infrastructure considerably. On the other hand, there does appear to exist, at least in North America, an image/stereotype of cyclists that includes a progressive worldview. Does this stereotype hold any truth?

Is there any evidence that support for improved cycling infrastructure correlates positively with progressive views on other political questions? If yes, is there any research that has attempted to find causes to explain this correlation?

(This might differ between competitive cycling, leisure cycling, utility cycling, tour cycling)


¹One might expect a correlation with climate, but I've lived in cities where temperatures frequently drop down to -30°C in winter (Kiruna, Sweden) which have far better cycling infrastructure than other cities where night frost is rare (Reading, UK). I believe there is no correlation here.

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    My experience (in Spain) is one of perception of cyclism; if it is not widespread it is seen as just a poor man's car or a hobby for eco-friendly people, so left wing parties are more in favour of it and right wing parties, while not directly opposed, are more prone to denounce any inconvenient due to support for cycling (closed car lanes, funds invested, etc.). My guess is that once cycling becomes more spread and less socially "marked", the distinction between left and right positions parties will be more pragmatic.
    – SJuan76
    Nov 28 '16 at 13:38
  • Intuitively, there might be. Cycling infrastructure has great costs (not only actual construction, but opportunity cost - you have to devote extremely valuable urban land to lanes, and make roads narrower). As such, it needs to be sold to people. And progressives typically view environmental issues as far more important than other issues, meaning selling progressive demos on cycling infrastructure is easier (regardless of whether it's actually beneficial for envoronment, which I didn't research - I personally bike to work because I enjoy bicycling and would do so even if it wasn't "green")
    – user4012
    Nov 28 '16 at 15:16
  • Also, you have the dumb correlation as well - support for cycling infrastructure is a dense urban thing for obvious reasons, and most dense urban cities in US are heavily progressive.
    – user4012
    Nov 28 '16 at 15:20
  • @user4012 I can see that intuitively it might be — although all the non-green reasons for cycling to work are not necessarily progressive (I cycle because it's fast, cheap, healthy, enjoyable, and consider the greenness a nice benefit). As for the US correlation between urban and progressive (which NB is not true everywhere; rural Sweden, Vermont, northern Ontario are rather progressive, in Sweden the big cities are rather rich and conservative), that's not too relevant for decisions typically taken locally in big cities like Moscow, Barcelona, Houston or Buenos Aires.
    – gerrit
    Nov 28 '16 at 15:29
  • @gerrit - correct. I (possibly incorrectly) read your question as being centered on USA since that was the stereotype you cited. Also: Ronald Reagan riding on a bicycle. Someone should make it into "Your argument is invalid" meme and post an answer
    – user4012
    Nov 28 '16 at 15:37
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With over 103 million cyclists in America link, there is going to be many dynamics going on that will be long on trends but not definitive conclusions. A good place to start is Ilovecycling that covers off on some of the particulars of riding frequency and who is riding. Geography, race, age, diet, sex, and economic status all come into play.

The stats generally show that recreational users, the vast number of bicyclists, have demographics that loosely correlate to center-right groups while commuters are more aligned with center-left groups in the US. There is one stat below regarding Europe that shows that this divide is less pronounced in Northern Europe. There is also a trend that while center-left groups have fewer cyclists, they are more dependent and receptive to bike lanes and trails, community bike storage, and generally "infrastructure". People for Bikes

Demographics:

Children from low-income and minority households, particularly blacks and Hispanics, are more likely to bike or walk to school than whites or higher-income students. McDonald, N., 2008 - Critical factors for active transportation to school among low-income and minority students: Evidence from the 2001 National Household Travel Survey, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 34, 341-3

The average North American bicycle commuter is a 39-year-old male professional with a household income in excess of $45,000 who rides 10.6 months per year. Moritz, W., 1997 - Survey of North American bicycle commuters: Design and aggregate results, Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, 1578, 91-101

Bicycling is highest among whites and Hispanics (0.9% of all trips are taken by bike). For whites, bicycles are mostly used for recreation, while for Hispanics, they are typically used to reach the workplace. Pucher, J., and J. Renne, 2003 - Socioeconomics of Urban Travel: Evidence from the 2001 NHTS, Transportation Quarterly, 57, 49-77

In northern Europe there are no significant differences in cycling rates among income classes or sexes. Pucher, J., and R. Buehler, 2008 - Cycling for everyone: Lessons from Europe, Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, 2074, 58-65

Access to a bicycle rises with household income. According to a government survey of nearly 10,000 Americans: just 29% of those with household incomes less than $15,000 had regular access to a bicycle 47% with incomes $30,000-$49,000 had access 65% with incomes $75,000 or more had access. Royal, D., and D. Miller-Steiger, 2008 - National Survey of Bicyclist and Pedestrian Attitudes and Behavior, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

87% of U.S. competitive cyclists are male, and 12% are female. Most (32%) are 35-44 years old and are from California (17%). USA Cycling, 2009 - Active member demographics

In the U.S., men's cycling trips surpass women's by at least 2:1. In the Netherlands, 55% of riders are women. In Germany, 49% of bike trips are made by women. Baker, L. 2009 - "How to get more bicyclists on the road: To boost urban bicycling, figure out what women want," Scientific American Magazine, October 16, 2009. (Ed note, most men are conservative in the US)

In the U.S., 24% of all bicycle trips are made by women and 76% are made by men. U.S. Department of Transportation, 2010 - 2009 National Household Travel Survey

A census of cyclists in Calgary, Canada found that 75% of cyclists commuting downtown were male. Women were more likely than men to be possible or occasional cyclists, while men were more likely than women to be regular cyclists. Women were more concerned about safety, being able to carry daily items, and the need to fix their hair. Twaddle, H., et al., 2011 - Latent bicycle commuting demand and effects of gender on commuter cycling and accident rates, Transportation Research Record, 2190/2010, 28-36

Over the last 25 years, cycling among the higher income brackets of Amsterdam has more than doubled (from 15% to 33%). Over the same period, bicycle ownership increased from 63% to 73% among all residents. Fietsberaad, 2011 - "Higher income brackets cycle as well in Amsterdam"

Western US states have the highest bicycling rates, while southern states have extremely low levels of bicycling. Pucher, J., et al., 2011 - Bicycling renaissance in North America? An update and re-appraisal of cycling trends and policies, Transportation Research A, 45, in press

Almost all of the growth in bicycling in the U.S. over the past two decades has been among men between 25-64 years old. Pucher, J., et al., 2011 - Bicycling renaissance in North America? An update and re-appraisal of cycling trends and policies, Transportation Research A, 45, in press

Bicycling rates don't very much by income level, but bicycling purposes do. Low-income persons bike mainly for utilitarian purposes, and high-income persons bike more for recreation and exercise. Pucher, J., et al., 2011 - Bicycling renaissance in North America? An update and re-appraisal of cycling trends and policies, Transportation Research A, 45, in press

Bicycling is becoming more diverse. Between 2001 and 2009, cycling rates rose fastest among African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans. Those three groups also account for a growing share of all bike trips, rising from 16% in 2001 to 21% in 2009. Pucher, J., et al., 2011 - Bicycling renaissance in North America? An update and re-appraisal of cycling trends and policies, Transportation Research A, 45, in press

A survey of casual bike share users in Washington, D.C. found that 75% were traveling in groups of two or more, and that 60% did not identify themselves as "cyclists". Buehler, R., et al., 2012 - Virginia Tech Capital Bikeshare study, A closer look at casual users and operations

Due to recent increases in local bicycling infrastructure, the Twin Cities has one of the nation's highest rates of women bicyclists, between 37-45%. Reeves, H. 2012 - "Spokes & soles // As infrastructure improves, more Twin Cities women bike," Southwest Journal, 11 June 2012

Men and women’s perceptions of safety and of the feasibility of bicycling differ; women are more sensitive to the absence of bike lanes and trails. Akar, G., Fischer, N., and Namgung, M. 2013 - Bicycling Choice and Gender Case Study: The Ohio State University, Int. J. of Sust. Trans., Volume 7, Issue 5

In a series of focus groups exploring barriers to bicycling in Portland, 100% of the African American participants expressed a fear that drivers would be hostile to them while they were cycling; no Hispanic and African participants expressed that fear. Community Cycling Center, 2012 - Understanding Barriers to Bicycling Project Final Report, July 2012

The costs of purchasing a bicycle was cited as a major obstacle to cycling by 60% of participants in focus groups of African, African American and Hispanic Portland residents. Community Cycling Center, 2012 - Understanding Barriers to Bicycling Project Final Report, July 2012

While 11% of all U.S. adults are African American, only 5.1% of U.S. bike riders in 2010 were African American. Similarly, 14% of Americans are Hispanic, but only 6.4% of U.S. bike riders in 2010 were Hispanic. The Gluskin Townley Group, 2011 - American Bicyclist Study

The number of children riding bicycles declined by more than 20% between 2000 and 2010 (even as the number of children in this country increased by 3%), while the number of adults riding bicycles increased slightly. Gluskin Townley Group, 2011 - The American Bicyclist Study

The number of women cycling decreased by 13 percent between 2000 and 2010, except among those women who are enthusiasts, and rode 110 days per year or more; their numbers increased by 8% that same decade. Gluskin Townley Group, 2011 - The American Bicyclist Study

Ethnic diversity:

Children from low-income and minority households, particularly blacks and Hispanics, are more likely to bike or walk to school than whites or higher-income students. McDonald, N., 2008 - Critical factors for active transportation to school among low-income and minority students: Evidence from the 2001 National Household Travel Survey, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 34, 341-3

In a series of focus groups exploring barriers to bicycling in Portland, 100% of the African American participants expressed a fear that drivers would be hostile to them while they were cycling; no Hispanic and African participants expressed that fear. Community Cycling Center, 2012 - Understanding Barriers to Bicycling Project Final Report, July 2012

The costs of purchasing a bicycle was cited as a major obstacle to cycling by 60% of participants in focus groups of African, African American and Hispanic Portland residents. Community Cycling Center, 2012 - Understanding Barriers to Bicycling Project Final Report, July 2012

35% of participants in focus groups made up of of African, African American and Hispanic Portland residents said that they did not have a place to store a bicycle where it would not get stolen. Community Cycling Center, 2012 - Understanding Barriers to Bicycling Project Final Report, July 2012

While 11% of all U.S. adults are African American, only 5.1% of U.S. bike riders in 2010 were African American. Similarly, 14% of Americans are Hispanic, but only 6.4% of U.S. bike riders in 2010 were Hispanic. The Gluskin Townley Group, 2011 - American Bicyclist Study

Your question on positive correlation and causation to other progressive causes

I'm not sure this is exactly what you are getting at, but bike lanes can be part and parcel of forced urbanization, anti-car, and wealth redistribution programs that have been put in place by the Obama administration and generally favored by the left for a host of reasons. Stanley Kurtz introduces the Sustainable Community Initiative. Forbes While this is an introduction to the program, it has been developing over the last 4-5 years and more extensive analysis of the program can be found on the web. The recent AFFH provisions fall under this umbrella generally.

President Obama’s plans for a second-term include an initiative to systematically redistribute the wealth of America’s suburbs to the cities. It’s a transformative idea, and deserves to be fully aired before the election. But like a lot of his major progressive policy innovations, Obama has advanced this one stealthily–mostly through rule-making, appointment, and vague directives. Obama has worked on this project in collaboration with Mike Kruglik, one of his original community organizing mentors. Kruglik’s new group, Building One America, advocates “regional tax-base sharing,” a practice by which suburban tax money is directly redistributed to nearby cities and less-well-off “inner-ring” suburbs. Kruglik’s group also favors a raft of policies designed to coerce people out of their cars and force suburbanites (with their tax money) back into densely packed cities.

Obama has lent the full weight of his White House to Kruglik’s efforts. A federal program called the Sustainable Communities Initiative, for example, has salted planning commissions across the country with “regional equity” and “smart growth” as goals. These are, of course, code words. “Regional equity” means that, by their mere existence, suburbs cheat the people who live in cities. It means, “Let’s spread the suburbs’ wealth around” – i.e., take from the suburbanites to give to the urban poor. “Smart growth” means, “Quit building sub-divisions and malls, and move back to where mass transit can shuttle you between your 800 square foot apartment in an urban tower and your downtown job.”

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    Could you please provide a citation or source for "With over 103 million cyclists in America" because with a population of 325 million (2016, worldometers.info/world-population/us-population ) you're saying just about 1 in 3 Americans are cyclists ? That seems optimistic, and having such a statement in your opening paragraph casts doubt on everything else in your answer.
    – Criggie
    Nov 28 '16 at 21:10
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    @Criggie, please see the attached link
    – user9790
    Nov 28 '16 at 21:12
  • the link says of the 103 million “Thirty percent rode five days or less, and a pretty big number rode only once in the last year." I think it is kinda misleading to lead with it.
    – user9389
    Nov 29 '16 at 0:08
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    This has become a huge wall of text. Please consider synthesizing the results into something more manageable. Probably all of the demographic and "diversity" stats could be removed, which would help a lot (unless you also have stats for center-right groups to compare them to). Nov 29 '16 at 21:30

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