Fast Company

Bike Computer Study Proves Rush-Hour Cycling Is Faster Than Driving

Biking is faster than driving--in Lyon, at least. That's the word from a study that looks at onboard computer data from the French city's Velo'v bikesharing program, which boasts 4,000 bikes, 350 stations, and 16,000 trips completed daily.

And if you don't think that applies elsewhere in the world, consider that Lyon is not an especially friendly  town for cyclists. It doesn't have a single bike lane.

The study, conducted by researchers at the École Normale Supérieure de Lyon, examined 11.6 million cycling trips in the city between May 2005 and December 2007. The computer on Velo'v bikes record the start and finish location of each trip, as well as overall travel time.

According to MIT's Physics arXiv Blog, the average speed of cyclists was approximately six miles an hour (the average inner city car speed in Europe). But during rush hour, cyclists traveled faster, at an average of nine miles an hour, beating local vehicles. For the first time, researchers have confirmation that cyclists pedal faster between 7:45 am and 8:45 am on weekdays, suggesting a rush to get to work.

Cyclists went especially fast on Wednesday mornings. This is probably a quirk of French culture, according to the researchers; women often stay home to take care of kids on Wednesdays, so the bike pool is mostly composed of men, who pedal more quickly.

The most important factoid from the study is this: bike trips between two points in Lyon are usually faster than corresponding car trips, even though the city has no bike lanes. This suggests that cyclists take to bus lanes, pavement, and riding the wrong way down one-way streets. It's the kind of information that is invaluable to urban planners who decide where to build bike lanes.

Now that more cities are getting onboard with bikesharing programs, expect similar studies to pop up elsewhere. We expect that New York City, which is aiming to set up a 24-hour network of approximately 10,000 GPS and wireless-equipped bikes, will be a treasure trove of urban planning information.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

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