MISSOULA – Forty-six percent of Montana adults 18 and older bicycled in the past 12 months, according to a recent study conducted by the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research at the University of Montana. The study surveyed 8,435 Montana residents January through March 2015.
According to ITTR Director Norma Nickerson, bicycling is fast becoming more than just a sport taken up by a few hardy souls. The sport has made recent headlines by CNN, The Economist, Business Insider and others who have called “cycling the new golf,” referring to doing business while cycling rather than on the golf course.
“In Montana we may not have seen that switch from golf to bicycling as of yet, but there are plenty of recreational bicyclists who enjoy a good ride,” Nickerson said.
In the ITRR study, 62 percent of bicyclists reported riding within their community and 48 percent indicated riding on a paved path. Only 12 percent of respondents said they rode on highways, which may be because just 13 percent of Montanans currently believe bicycling on highways is safe.
The study found that approximately two-thirds of Montana residents, whether they have bicycled or not in the past 12 months, are not familiar with Montana bicycling laws. “The lack of knowledge of bicycling laws is a bit of concern,” Nickerson said.
Bicycling is most popular during the summer months, when 97 percent of Montana cyclists say they ride. But, there are a hardy 11 percent of Montanans who ride in the winter months, including 20 percent of adults in Montana who commute to work on a bike.
According to bicycle advocacy organization PeopleForBikes, bike commuting in the U.S. grew 47 percent during the past decade and is expected to continue to grow.
In late 2013, ITRR conducted a bicycle tourism study, which found that multiday bicycling in Montana brings in money to small communities around the entire state. This is a trend nationwide. From 1990 to 2009, the number of U.S. bike trips more than doubled from 1.8 billion to 4 billion trips per year, according to PeopleForBikes.