Provisional COVID-19 infrastructure induces large, rapid increases in cycling | PNAS
Sebastian Kraus and Nicolas Koch
Active travel makes people healthier and creates a wide range of additional social and environmental benefits. The provision of dedicated infrastructure is considered a crucial policy to increase cycling. However, evaluating the impact of this type of intervention is difficult because infrastructure changes are typically slow. The rollout of so-called pop-up bike lanes during the COVID-19 pandemic is a unique empirical context to estimate the pull effect of new cycling infrastructure. We show that the policy has worked. We find large increases in cycling. This result is robust for a variety of empirical counterfactuals. Further research is needed to investigate whether this change is persistent and whether similar results can be achieved in situations outside the context of a pandemic.
The bicycle is a low-cost means of transport linked to low risk of transmission of infectious disease. During the COVID-19 crisis, governments have therefore incentivised cycling by provisionally redistributing street space. We evaluate the impact of this new bicycle infrastructure on cycling traffic using a generalized difference in differences design. We scrape daily bicycle counts from 736 bicycle counters in 106 European cities. We combine these with data on announced and completed pop-up bike lane road work projects. Within 4 mo, an average of 11.5 km of provisional pop-up bike lanes have been built per city and the policy has increased cycling between 11 and 48% on average. We calculate that the new infrastructure will generate between $1 and $7 billion in health benefits per year if cycling habits are sticky.