Study Reveals Habits, Motivations of Local Bicyclists

by ARLnow.com December 27, 2011 at 3:45 pm 9,326 78 Comments

The typical bicyclist in Arlington is a wealthy Caucasian male who uses his bike for exercise, recreation and commuting, according to the findings of a recently-released survey.

The survey — conducted by a Richmond-based research firm under contract from Arlington County Commuter Services — probed the demographics, motivations and habits of local bicyclists using a combination of online surveys and in-person surveys conducted on Arlington bike trails.

Among the study’s findings:

  • Mean age of respondents is 43
  • Median income is $108,000
  • 80% are Caucasian
  • 64% are male
  • 88% are employed full-time
  • 35% work in Arlington
  • 50% live seven or more miles from work
  • 83% bike to work at least a couple of times per week
  • 63% commute to work exclusively via bicycle
  • 74% have employers that offer assistance, information or facilities that encourage biking to work
  • 45% use a bike as their primary mode of transportation
  • 89% say exercise and recreation is among the reasons why they choose to bike
  • 81% are “satisfied” with local multi-use trails
  • 47% of those who started using the county’s BikeArlington services now bicycle more frequently

For more information, see a summary of the findings or a complete presentation of survey results.

Disclosure: Arlington County Commuter Services placed ads for the online survey on ARLnow.com over the summer.

  • We’ve seen this picture before. I love the hispanic man on the right looking at these two dudes done up in their cycling gear. The expression on his face is priceless. He probably rode down to Four Mile Run to catch some dinner on his $10 yard sale bike.

    • John Fontain

      To this day, I still get a chuckle upon seeing the local weekend warriors dressed up in their professional cycling jerseys and bib shorts. They are still playing dress up like they did when they were kids.

      • CrystalMikey

        Guy: “Look at those Tour de France wannabes.”

        • arlcyclist

          Both riders are wearing clothing that is designed to be worn while riding a bike. That’s not to say you can’t dress like the Hispanic man in order to ride a bike but if you ride daily and rack up a lot of miles moisture wicking fabrics, stiff soled clip-in shoes, and a helmet with vents for air circulation are all nice to have. Compare these guys to your typical golfer out for 18 on the weekend or someone in an adult hockey league and it’s not any different. Those who can afford it wear gear that is meant to be worn when playing that particular sport.

          Take today, for instance. I rode from S Arlington to work downtown in the rain and while crossing the 14th St Bridge I passed a younger Hispanic male riding a youth girls bike dressed in street clothes. He’s no less a rider than I am and we’re both just trying to get to work and I thought to myself how fortunate I am to be warm and dry on a bike that’s better suited to a ten mile commute. I can’t speak for others but I don’t wear cycling clothing because I’m a “Lance wannabe” or a “Tour de France wannabe.” I wear cycling clothing because I can afford it and that’s what I’m doing, cycling.

          • CrystalMikey

            My only question is can you buy plain-colored gear? Or is it subsidized with all that advertising?

          • G::TheNativeArligntonian

            You can get unadorned cycling jerseys. This graphics and logos just happen to be part of the culture of cycling that you find on shirts. And its usually just the short sleeve stuff. Look at motorcross and a lot of other sports do the same. The only difference its more noticable here is because we have more cyclists around the area than motorcross of pro skiiers. Duh.

            As was also said, you can wear anything you want to ride, as long as you are comfortable. Some cyclists turn to the all spandex wear b/c over a long ride it is more comfortable to ride in. You also don’t need an expensive bike and gear to enjoy riding or commute. Better affords more advantages, as do more expensive cars, cameras, computers, etc. etc. But I can still shoot cool pictures with a pinhole camera, as I can with a Nikon D3. Same with bikes.

            So in this regard I believe that this survey and the statistics are very flawed. Did they approach everyone they saw, or only people the survey taker felt comfortable approaching? If it was only the bike trails then they also missed a lot of people… like the hispanic community who you regularly see commuting on bikes.

            No, I think this was a waste of someone’s money and I hope it wasn’t our tax dollars.

          • J


            The plain-colored gear, like most stuff, seems to come in several varieties. You can get reasonably-priced plain gear from retail outlets like Nashbar or Performance, but in my experience the stuff tends to fall apart quickly or doesn’t fit properly. It’s surprisingly difficult to find useful plain-colored stuff in a mid-range price. The plain-looking stuff that fits well and is durable is shockingly expensive. You can easily spend $300 on a single jacket or $400 on a pair of bib-shorts–Assos is a Siwss company that falls in this category, for example. If you see someone on a really fancy bike with plain clothing, there’s a good chance they spent a small fortune on their clothing.

            Some of the branded items end up being discounted. For example, when I was getting started, Hammer Nutrition sold very inexpensive biking shorts (of the $30-$35 variety) that were surprisingly comfortable and effective. Same with jackets / jerseys. Many of these nutritional companies / bike retailers / sponsors subsidize the cost of their gear or sell it close to cost. Sometimes people just like the product on the jersey–the guy on the left has an Arrogant Bastard Ale jersey which is somewhat popular. Occasionally people have a national or emotional attachment; I’ve bought items representing goods or companies that were from trips or vacations I’ve taken. It’s a nice way to remember the experience.

            I can’t speak for the two guys in the picture there. I can say from experience, however, that riding 80 miles through the backwoods of Maryland in 90 degree heat necessitates clothing suited to the task. Bad clothing makes the effort at best painful, at worst bloody.

            Not to say that some people don’t need the clothing. But it’s nothing that can’t be said for most sports–golf, running, basketball, rowing, tennis, etc. Any equipment intensive sport is likely to have a large contingent of people who spend beyond to a level that exceeds any meaningful benefit.

          • Rick

            Hockey gear is mandatory. This is not.

          • dirty biker

            Hockey gear is mandatory only if you like unbroken fingers and teeth. You *could* play with a pillow wrapped around your torso and a colander on your head… but you don’t

            Similarly, if you are even a semi-serious rider, decent, snug fitting clothing is mandatory to prevent serious chaffing and transfer heat/sweat away from your body.

            I have a mix of unadorned (expensive) gear and subsidized but brightly colored/branded gear from participation on various teams. Why the heck would I pay more for the bland stuff of similar quality? Seems wasteful…

          • Tom

            Hockey gear is NOT mandatory – only the skates. To focus on outfits in a photo is ridiculous.

            I applaud the County for working hard to bring transportation options to our community. In my opinion, one of Arlington’s greatest attributes is that I don’t have to drive a car everywhere I need to go. Cars are a huge contributor to stress and obesity. Thankfully I live in a community where I can choose more healthy transportation options.

          • othersideoftheriver

            If you’re playing league hockey, not only is some gear mandatory (helmets and — depending on your skill level — some degree of face protection), so is membership in USA Hockey, which provides insurance coverage.

            Back to the regularly-scheduled conversation about cycling…

          • Arlwhenver

            I used to play hockey with shins guards, and no other padding or protection. We would find a frozen pond or a section of the river where we hoped the currents were weak. If was great. Those were the best days of our lives. And long before the Lance wannabes sprouted I rode a bike most everywhere and on long trips, like to Leesburg and back, wearing cutoffs, sneakers and a t-shirt. These days people have a very inflated idea of what they need,

      • SomeGuy

        And then there’s the concept of wearing gear suited to the task.

        • Just like I wear my Dale Earnhardt fire-retardant Quaker State jump suit when I drive to work.

        • arlcyclist


        • John Fontain

          How does having faux corporate logos emblazened all over your costume help you ride your bicycle better? And why pay double for the fake ‘professional-looking’ jersey instead of just buying a plain one?

          • SomeGuy

            Is it the logos or the fit of the clothing that you’re trying to deride?

            In other words, tell me which variety of style police you want to be, and maybe I’ll help you understand the motivations, whether or not I agree with them. Although I’m not sure you’re really interested in understanding.

            The reality is, the obnoxious logos are usually subsidized, for example, when you join a cycling club (which gets sponsored by businesses). In those cases, buying a non-professional “plain” one is actually more costly to the individual. So these people are actually probably going the cheap “do what’s easy” route, which I think you’d condone. Yes?

          • John Fontain

            “How does having faux corporate logos emblazened all over your costume help you ride your bicycle better?”

            Should I assume your answer is: “It doesn’t.” Remember, you were the one who stated that these fancy dress-up clothes were necessary for the task of riding a bike.

          • SomeGuy

            No, John Fontain. I didn’t say “fancy dress-up clothes were necessary for the task of riding a bike.” That’s your straw man.

            And no, I don’t think a logo specifically helps the rider ride his bicycle better. Of course, no one in this discussion posited that, so that’s another straw man.

          • John Fontain

            “no one in this discussion posited that, so that’s another straw man.”

            From above:

            JF says: “I still get a chuckle upon seeing the local weekend warriors dressed up in their professional cycling jerseys and bib shorts”

            SG replies: “there’s the concept of wearing gear suited to the task”

            Someguy, if it makes you feel better, I think the dudes wearing the $150 “authentic Caps jerseys” to the Caps games look just as silly.

          • SomeGuy

            Mr. Fontain, I don’t think it’s not ridiculous to wear gear suited to a task. That is a far cry from saying that a logo makes a cyclist ride better or that said gear is “necessary for the task of riding a bike,” both of which are the straw men you’re trying to argue against.

          • SomeGuy

            Corrected Typo: … I don’t think it’s ridiculous to wear …

          • Oddball

            Mr Fontain. I believe the logo on the rider on the left refers to you (it’s an arrogant [email protected] ale shirt)

      • oboe

        I think the same thing whenever I go to my local swimming pool. All these people dressed up in their stupid outfits trying to be Michael Phelps. Don’t get me started on the women wearing their revealing lycra underwear. What a joke!

  • Common Sense

    “The typical bicyclist in Arlington is a wealthy Caucasian male who uses his bike for exercise, recreation and commuting, according to the findings of a recently-released survey.”

    Did they really need a survey to know this? Ridiculous.

    • E

      yep, stuuuupid survey, i think we all knew this already!

      • Southeast Jerome

        Yes. Just like we know most of them live in North Arlington

  • Common Sense

    “45% use a bike as their primary mode of transportation”


  • John Fontain

    “The typical bicyclist in Arlington is a wealthy Caucasian male”

    Thus the existence of Freshbikes. Only with these demographics could a store survive selling $5,000 bicycles to guys who buy them in order to shave 7.3 seconds off their commute times.

  • Lance Armstrong

    Other noteworthy statistics that were omitted from the study:

    90% are oblivious to anyone else on the trails but themselves
    99% think I used PEDs but think they could beat me in a race anyway and are out to prove it today with another ‘personal best’

    • SomeGuy

      Those 90% are aware of you, but they know you belong on the right unless you’re passing. People who are slower-moving and NOT on the right are the ones who seem oblivious to everyone but themselves.

      • Southeast Jerome

        100% of them ride in the street when its convenient. Except when its not, then they take to the sidewalks or the crosswalks and use dirty looks when they arent treated like a pedestrian.

        There is a reason why biking is so big in France. Bikers like this take themselves so seriously. Just like the French.

        • SomeGuy

          My comment referred to riders on the trails.

  • Good Grief

    Pretty sure this “research” was taken from http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/

    • John Fontain

      Good one.


      “they love expensive Road Bikes and the accompanying spandex uniforms. This enables them to ride long distances and wear really tight clothes without any social stigmas. These types of riders will spend upwards of $5,000 on a bicycle and up to $400 on accessories, but will not ride to work. Perhaps because they cannot wear the spandex. It is important that you never question why someone needs a $5000 bicycle since the answer is always “performance.”

      • Good Grief

        Exactly – this research is plagiarism at its best.

  • E

    I love the Native American fella lookin on.

    • Maybe they littered.

      • 80s kid


  • my definition of wealthy exceeds 108k less Arlington taxes & cost of living.

  • SomeGuy

    I don’t see the word “wealthy” used anywhere in the study’s findings.

    • read the article.

      • SomeGuy

        Which article? The arlnow.com article uses the word “wealthy.” But nowhere in the study is it used. That was my point.

      • SomeGuy

        Also, note that my first post on the topic at 4:17 pm was a general post, and not a response to yours. I was subtly pointing out the same thing I think you were: that $108K as “wealthy” is an interpretive liberty taken by the article’s author, and not a word I saw used by the study’s author.

  • mickey644

    Some “small” statistics left out: How many people participated in the survey? With an average of 43 year old commuters, that means there are 60-70 year old commuters in the survey? hmmmm How many people commute via bike each day, on average?

    Lastly, what did the survey/report cost us taxpayers?

    • South Arlington

      I’m pretty sure if you’d just looked at the report, your questions would be answered. 35% of the survey participants were olds in the Baby Boomer category, with 868 total survey participants.

      • mickey644

        And the cost was?

    • Oscar

      You know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

  • Breaking News

    Breaking News: County Board appalled at male white caucasian use of bike trails and votes to build affordable housing on all bike trails and to tax all male white caucasians with bikes unless they are homeless.

    • Bluemontsince1961


    • Laugh, but it would not surprise me to see a personal property tax put on bikes. After all, the county is pushing for you to get rid of your car. They need the tax revenue somewhere. So, that $5000 bike might cost you a hefty tax each year eventually.

      • CrystalMikey

        Complete with visible county decal/sticker

  • Always Right

    The stats show they are government employees.

  • Louise

    What percentage have beards and/or ride incumbents?

    • Richard Cranium

      Man, there was one perk to being an incumbent I wasn’t aware of!!

      (perhaps “recumbent”??)

      • louise

        Hahahah yes I meant recumbent. Oops.

  • charlie

    what a bloody waste of money.
    oh sure, either USDOT or a bunch of developers paid for this. it still isn’t free money.

    anybody with two eyes and a clipboard could have done this. And those on the bike trail who aren’t white men in their 40’s, well, they wish they were.

    next up: boys with brown flip flops have no money and tons of debt.

    • Southeast Jerome

      Yes Charlie, we do have tons of debt.

      And guess what, when that generation is in charge and you are nice and old and they pull the plug on the grand old ponzi scheme that you’ve been relying on called social security and medicare, they’ll be laughing at how those old guys with white hair have just promises that we can vote away.

      Maybe they have tons of debt and no money b/c your generation forced expensive education down their throats as a requirement, allowed insane tuition increases and massive student loan debts, ruined the economy via the housing bubble and now cannot generate any sustained economic growth.

      Its hardly the young people that wear flip flops that are the problem.

      • charlie

        i’m going to be sugar daddy and queen godmother to whoever will take care of my needs starting in, oh, a few hours. oh, ok, maybe a few more decades. I plan to buy my comfort in the back nine.

      • Huh?

        “your generation forced expensive education down their throats as a requirement”

        Really? I didn’t realize it was a requirement of anybody to take out student loans (debt) to get an expensive college education.

        You seem to want to blame others for the society you live in, yet you are a part of it SEJ. Fess up. You are part of the problem, and with your attitude likely a bigger share of it than you need to be.

  • charlie

    did the survey also reveal that most of them are obnoxious, go to fast, don’t stop at lights, don’t know that the double-yellow line on the bike trail means THEM, and that when they overtake they try hard to brush aside the person not only scaring them but also impacting their stride.
    yeah, because the survey sucks.

  • Facepalm

    100% of the money spent on this survey was wasted. I loved that he uses his bike for “exercise, recreation, or commuting.” Are there any other functions of a bike? Stunts?

    Cyclists make goth kids look sane.

  • jimPB

    Rich or poor, in a cyclist “uniform” or not, bicyclists are engaging in healthy activity and reducing vehicular congestion and pollution. May their numbers increase.

    What deters those of lesser income/wealth from bicycling? Might the need to commute further (more miles) to work be a factor (with less income, more likely to have to live further out and from work)? Might family needs be another factor (how many ARLCo cyclists are single or in a relationship with another adult W/O responsibilities for children and/or a parent(s)0?

    How might safer transit be fostered for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers?

    What are the issues and problems in drivers-cyclists and pedestrian-cyclist relationships? How might there be resolved in a win-win manner?

    • Zoning Victim

      While I respectfully disagree that bicyclists do/will reduce vehicular congestion given the current infrastructure, I think all of the information garnered from the survey is unreliable as a predictor of who really rides and how much money they make because the only people who responded to the survey were avid, wealthy riders. 83% of the respondents say they ride to work at least a couple of days per week. That is not the norm even in Arlington.

      So while many of your questions are important questions to have answered, I don’t think we can say from this survey that people with moderate to low incomes don’t bike or that there is necessarily any barrier to them riding a bicycle. It doesn’t appear that moderate to low income riders were very well represented in this survey, for whatever reason.

  • Julie

    the other thing these guys have in common is that they totally ignore the rules of the road. They are vehicles which are supposed to adhere to laws for automobiles, but too many times run red lights, cruise through stop signs, ride in pedestrian crosswalks and ride on the wrong side of the street. Generally the only thing they do is make it more difficult for drivers and pedestrians.

  • Westover Leftover

    101 pages of wasted tax dollars.

    How much did this ‘study” cost?

  • BlueLoom

    The reason that 64% are male is that 100% of female cyclists are terrified of riding the bike trails alone. If a female cyclist can’t find a riding buddy (or two or ten) on a given day, she probably just sighs deeply and takes a long walk on the (relatively) safer sidewalks in Arlington.

    However much the county paid for this study/survey, it was a waste of money. Bureaucrats commissioning studies in order to appear to justify their own jobs.

    • Terrified

      Yes poor unfortunate females. They can’t leave the house because they are weak and ‘terrified’. Give me a break.

    • BlueSkies

      “100% of female cyclists are terrified of riding the bike trails alone. If a female cyclist can’t find a riding buddy (or two or ten) on a given day, she probably just sighs deeply and takes a long walk on the (relatively) safer sidewalks in Arlington.” Seriously, BlueLoom? Where on earth did you get this idea from?

  • ArlingtonWay

    Shorter survey results: Typical pretentious Arlington d-bags.

    • SomeGuy

      I thought the “typical pretentious Arlington d-bag” was a 20-something who drives a 3-series BMW he can barely afford, wears brown flip-flops, and chases the typical “Arlington Girl” (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=arlington+girl) while getting drunk for sport at an overpriced Clarendon sports bar.

      So the 43 y/o caucasian males mentioned in this study, many of whom use a bicycle as their primary mode of transportation (thus, not a 3-series) and make 6 figures don’t quite fit that description.

      Can you clarify?

  • BoredHouseWife

    you made wtop on the radio

  • Fembikecommuter

    There is so much ignorance in these comments, and a few shortcomings in the sample looked at by the survey. I bike commute nearly every day and use my bike as regular transportation for other purposes as well. To clear up a few myths – there are many female as well as male bike commuters. We are not terrified on the trails and ride them regularly, even at night. There are many commuters who ride older inexpensive bikes and the vast majority are not dressed like Lance Armstrong. There are many cyclists on the trails from lower income groups. Many of us use our bikes as a primary or only mode of transportation and not just for recreation.

    • JimPB

      Fembikecommuter — Thank you for your perceptive, forthright comments.

  • OralePues

    i took that survey, can’t recall who did it though it was a while back. Only reason I remember is cause they sent a $5 starbucks gift card to me 2 weeks ago thanking participation. I almost want to say it was VDOT but not 100% sure.

  • shelley

    Only 13% of those 868 surveyed were intercepted on the trails, the rest were self-reporting on-line. And paid for by Arlington County Commuter Services? I’m sure the Richmond-based research firm knew the kind of results looked for.

  • Ronan

    Cool pic!

    Anyone have the rear view of those pic? Im willing to bet the guy in blue has a nice, beefy butt wobbling in that spandex.


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