Are cyclists richer, more educated & bigger spenders?

Separated bike lane

Spot the educated rich people on the right

In trying to promote a new separated bike lane, a Vancouver-based group (the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition, or VACC) has released some intriguing statistics aimed at getting local business on side. According to them, cyclists are not only more educated than average, but also earn a higher than average income and spend more than average at local shops (full details below, courtesy of this article):

• Studies have shown that pedestrians and cyclists stay longer and spend more money at local shops than drivers do.

• According to a study by Mintel, regular cyclists – those who cycle at least once a week – are disproportionately likely to be well educated, have a household income of at least $75,000 per year.

• One on-street car parking space can fit a dozen bicycles- consider the number of cycling customers who could park near a business.

• Vancouver Bike to Work week statistics show over 7,000 cycling commuters with an average income of over $50,000 and 27% making over $75,000.

Now clearly the VACC is a biased source, so its findings should be taken with a pinch of salt (and clearly these averages somehow overcome the usual fans of city cycling: poor students), but they do give pause for thought. Have other cities done studies of the typical demographics of cyclists? Do these findings hold out?

This study for outer London shows that cyclists (and pedestrians) spent more on average in local shops than those that arrived by cars (your correspondent’s bemusement, based on memories of wobbling home on a bike with grocery bags, are partly offset by the reminder than much of this spending is in services, not necessarily all on milk and eggs).

Elsewhere, a survey of Sydney-based cyclists shows cyclists are typically male, aged 18-50, and work in a mixture of both trade/construction and white-collar jobs (finance, IT, government), along with poor students. There’s little to suggest a higher than average income.

Most comprehensively, though, this poorly formatted extract from a wide-ranging 2008 sports participation survey by the US National Sporting Goods Association indicates the following key statistics:

  • A higher percentage of adult bicyclists are college graduates compared to the total U.S. population of adults.
  • 30% of all adult bicyclists in the U.S. live in households with incomes of $100,000 or more – compared to 17.5% of all U.S. adults living in households with incomes of $100,000 or more.  This is 71% higher than the national household income for this income bracket.
  • Bikers have a median household income of $59,000, significantly higher then the U.S. average of $48,946.

A final extract, which perhaps implies that we should aspire to promote infrequent cyclists, given this additional statistic:

  • Infrequent adult bicyclists also had the highest percentage of college graduates among both men and women, and the highest percentage of households with incomes of $100,000 or more.


  1. SH says:

    I can say there’s at least one cyclist in L.A. who’s: 1) college educated; 2) earns over $100k a year; and 3) rides to work and back every day.

  2. Rob Morley says:

    If you’re going shopping by bike get some decent panniers, or a trailer. If you have three kids don’t buy a two-seater sports car to take them on family outings. And don’t forget to breathe.

  3. Jean says:

    Maybe a better way of seeing looking at this income issue more anecdotally is: to look at your workplace. Who does cycle to work and what jobs (aka approximate guess of their salary range) do these commuter cyclists hold?

    I worked for 2 legal organizations (1 major law firm and the other, a non-profit, legal aid organizations). Several lawyers in each organization, were cycling several times per week to work. Of course the lawyers in legal aid aren’t earning salaries as high as corporate large law firms, but they get paid alot better than a restaurant worker or a store cashier.

    Where I work now, it would be safe that a large number of the commuter-cycling employees have at least education beyond high school.


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