Cycling in a Crisis: Using disaggregated bike-share data to measure changes in the spatial propensity to cycle during the COVID-19 pandemic

Authors: Joshua H. Davidson*, University of Pennsylvania
Topics: Transportation Geography, Urban and Regional Planning, Quantitative Methods
Keywords: cycling, transport equity, covid, map algebra, bike share
Session Type: Virtual Paper
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Extensive research in transportation geography has measured the spatial conditions that affect an individual’s propensity to bicycle and the route choice they utilize when taking a trip by bike. Individual factors such as gender and workforce sector are associated with the likelihood of cycling, while infrastructural features like the presence/absence of bike lanes correlate with route choice. However, less attention has been paid to the ways that exogenous shocks, such as public health crises, may force an increase in the propensity to bicycle, or, more generally, the utility of cycling in certain spatial environments. In this paper, I measure the effect of socioeconomic and infrastructural variables on the utility of cycling during the COVID-19 crisis. Using individual-level, origin-destination data from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s bikeshare system, I employ a “map algebra” approach and hierarchical logistic regression models to measure the likelihood of a raster cell – a consistent geographic unit – undergoing an increase in the utility for cycling between the pre-COVID-19 period and the period of the pandemic. I test the hypothesis that socio-spatial features of uneven development like racial segregation and economic isolation, in tandem with infrastructural-spatial features like road quality, are associated with an increase in the propensity to cycle during the crisis. I argue that individuals who face transport-based social exclusion may have experienced a certain kind of transport-based “displacement” during the pandemic – from modes deemed temporarily unsafe, such as public transit, to a mode previously deemed undesirable, riding a bicycle.

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