Here's a surprise: if you give people good bike infrastructure, they use it. A new study published in the American Journal of Public Health examined adults in three communities in the UK before and after walking and cycling infrastructure was improved. It found that people living within a kilometer (.6 miles) increased their time walking and cycling by 45 minutes per week on average. This wasn't just switching from one form of exercise to another either; according to MedicalXpress,
Crucially, there was no evidence that the gains in walking and cycling were offset by reductions in other forms of physical activity. This suggests that the new routes have encouraged local people to become more active overall.
If you build it, they will come
To all those people who question whether there is a need for a particular bike lane, it is proof that just being near one increases the number of cyclists. It also demonstrates the multiple benefits of bike and pedestrian infrastructure; as Dr. Anna Goodman, a lead author of the paper notes:
These findings support the case for changing the environment to promote physical activity by making walking and cycling safer, more convenient and more attractive. The fact that we showed an increase in overall levels of physical activity is very important, and shows that interventions of this sort can play a part in wider public health efforts to prevent diabetes, heart disease and other chronic conditions.