In the rain, the cycle paths become less empty than you might think

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In the rain, the cycle paths become less empty than you might think




Infographic: it's raining on Parisian cyclists

Infographic: it’s raining on Parisian cyclists

With confinement, cycling has exploded this year in Paris. But with fall on the way, can bad weather put a strain on it?

Every Monday, find our column “Cool wheels”, which addresses the bicycle as a means of transport, without a plush lion or polka dot jersey.

It no longer needs to be demonstrated that the bicycle experienced a “boom” as soon as the confinement ended (and even before). Whether it is to respect barrier gestures by avoiding public transport or by ecological convictions, the bicycle suddenly found itself at the center of political and civic attention. But as winter approaches, it remains to be seen: can bad weather dampen this widespread enthusiasm for cycling, a recurring argument for detractors of muscular two-wheelers?

On Twitter, some videos seem to go in this direction, showing Parisian streets where the absence of bicycles is noticed during bad weather. Well actually, yes, the rain cools down cyclists, but much less than you might think.

During confinement, the death of the bicycle

To find out if precipitation really discourages city dwellers from cycling, Release combined the data made available by the city of Paris, which has increased the number of bicycle counters in the capital. Five points which identify the most daily passages were selected, namely Boulevard de Sébastopol, Boulevard de Magenta, Rue de Rivoli, Boulevard Voltaire and Quai de la Tournelle.



Infographic: it's raining on Parisian cyclists

Infographic: it’s raining on Parisian cyclists

Observation of traffic since the start of the year already makes it possible to grasp the extent to which confinement will have put a stop to travel. The number of daily passages of bicycles clearly testifies to an upturn in traffic, clearly higher than the level before confinement, and even with regard to the summer period.

Superimposing precipitation on it does not, however, make it possible to quantify the decrease or not in traffic in the event of bad weather: if certain periods of rain seem to be correlated with a decrease in daily passages as in September, this does not necessarily imply a link of cause and effect. Especially since the traffic is not homogeneous over time: it varies depending on the day of the week, school holidays or the transport strike.

This perception is improved when we look at the precipitation side, distributed in different degrees of intensity. In order not to create a distortion of reality, the period of confinement has been excluded.

The decrease in bicycle trips on rainy days is much more obvious and can logically increase with the intensity of precipitation. If the traffic drops quite sharply as soon as a few drops appear (around 10%), it is not as dazzling as expected: the traffic only drops by 28% when the precipitation is greater than 3 mm over a day, which nevertheless concerns about 17% of the period studied.

Cyclists better equipped against the rain

The multiplication of protective equipment to enable cyclists to carry out everyday journeys, even in bad weather, can explain this phenomenon. If the rain does not prevent the majority of people from getting on their bikes, can we observe different trends if we separate the journeys on weekdays from those made on weekends? We could a priori think that rain has a greater deterrent power on weekends, given that travel is more linked to a recreational desire, and not to an imperative, such as going to work.

In addition to the decrease in trips on rainy days, they are also less important on weekends than on weekdays. On the other hand, the raw data shows that daily traffic drops by around 29% on weekends on rainy days, while it only drops by a quarter on weekdays. Not enough therefore to say that weekend users take their bikes out less in bad weather, all things considered.

While there does not seem to be any major difference between the week and the weekend, has confinement played a role in the propensity of users to take the bike on rainy days? The answer is, this time, yes. Before March 17, traffic fell on average by more than a fifth on days with more than 1mm of rainfall, compared to only 15% in the period that followed. The desire to respect barrier gestures can partly explain this.

In general, it seems that precipitation is having an impact on daily bicycle traffic in the capital. But they are far from emptying the cycle paths of its users. And this, even less since the deconfinement, to the detriment of the discourse carried by the detractors of the bicycle. A multitude of biases pushes not to take these observations literally, because they do not take into account other criteria such as rush hours, confinement or transport strike. In any case, it is clear that the bad weather is in no way an obstacle to the current dynamic (for the moment). On average, traffic has increased by half since the end of containment.



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