How Many People Bike In Edmonton, And Where?

Your author's children, 7 and 9

How many people cycle in Edmonton, and where do they live? 

In the 2012 Edmonton census, the City asked people about their "main mode of transportation from home to work".  It's a terrible question, really, because it ignores the flexibility inherent in the decision to cycle. What if you only ride to work on sunny days? How about if you only ride to work when you don't have meetings? 

The "main mode of transportation from home to work" question misconstrues the number of actual trips. For example, according to this question, only 22% of people in Amsterdam mainly ride to work (wikipedia). However, other statistics show that around 50% of every trip in Amsterdam is taken by bike.

Anyway, using the data that we do have, what do they say about Edmonton?  Well, they say that only 0.7% of Edmontonians mainly cycle to work, which seems very small (see above complaints). For reference, Portland's number is 6%, San Francisco's is 3%, and Vancouver is at about 2% (source). Aside: Edmonton cycling infrastructure is only getting 0.35% of the capital funding for the current capital budget, so even by this underestimating metric, cyclists are not getting their fair share.

More importantly, though, they tell us that we have hotspots that deserve infrastructure, and cold spots that don't. Here are the neighbourhoods that answered above 2%:

Neighbourhood % of people who "mainly ride from home to work"
Mckernan 5.29%
Strathcona 4.89%
Parkallen 4.32%
Grandview Heights 4.26%
Queen Alexandra 3.81%
Belgravia 3.30%
Riverdale 3.12%
Ritchie 2.95%
Lendrum Place 2.92%
Garneau 2.91%
King Edward Park 2.78%
Virginia Park 2.70%
Windsor Park 2.66%
Landsdowne 2.65%
Allendale 2.48%
Laurier Heights 2.38%
North Glenora 2.35%
Crestwood 2.29%
Westmount 2.26%
Hazeldean 2.25%
Brookside 2.24%
Strathearn 2.20%
Avonmore 2.15%
Malmo Plains 2.09%
Glenora 2.05%

I got this data by importing the 2012 Edmonton census numbers into a spreadsheet, then writing a formula to tease out cyclists as a percentage.

There are 25 neighbourhoods with over 2% of people mainly biking to work. Among those, the University-Whyte area is king, with 11 of the 25 being clustered around there (hello, 83rd Ave and 104 Street bike lanes anyone!). The most striking thing about the other neighbourhoods is that they almost all have excellent access to the river valley (and hence great bike infrastructure), and they are relatively central.

Surprise! Hollick-Kenyon neighbourhood, situated near 167 Avenue and 50 Street, has 0.075% of people mainly biking to work! How about we not spend money enticing another 0.01% of those residents onto their bikes.

No, we have hotspots, and they share a commonality that they are close(ish) to things, and they are non-terrible to ride in. We need to focus our money and political will where the cyclists already are.

As an aside, I think that Downtown (at 0.82%)  and Oliver (at 1.77%) should still be invested in, because they are largely destinations, and I also think that residents don't ride in them very much because they are terrifying to cycle in right now. With a couple of decent bike paths, cycling there would explode in no time.

The "mainly bike to work" statistic is the one I'm not fond of. Next time I'll talk about some better stats, ones that show how many Edmontonians really ride their bikes.

Edit: Here are the communities with between 1%-2%

Neighbourhood % of people who "mainly ride from home to work"
OLIVER 1.77%
ARGYLL 1.59%
CANORA 1.45%

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So, this would set a bottom bracket estimate since it probably only covers the hardcores that ride to work at least half the time. I'm thinking that the next step might be as simple as a high bracket estimate question: What percentage of Edmontonians have bikes? And then what percentage would ride more if there was a better/safer bike infrastructure. I suspect that is >60% and >40% respectively.

One reason for the lower numbers in Downtown and Oliver is also the walkability of the neighbourhoods and proximity to destinations. Everything is close making walking more convenient for residents. Over 3000 daily trips are made to and from the downtown and oliver each day by bike because they are a destination like you said.

Good point Tyler, if you're 5 minutes walk from work it doesn't make sense to ride.

Are there any more sources of public numbers? Like that 3000 daily trips number, for example.

Conrad's comment below I think is crucial. While some people bike out of necessity (can't afford driving), others for fitness or environmental concern, the great majority will not bike if the bike ride is relatively unpleasant compared to driving. The river valley and other separate bike paths are a pleasure to ride.

Conrad wrote above:
""The most striking thing about the other neighbourhoods is that they almost all have excellent access to the river valley (and hence great bike infrastructure), and they are relatively central."

I live near UofA. When I go to the shopping district at Stony plain and 149ave I always ride. The river valley trails are a pleasant 10km return ride.

When I go to the shops around Calgary trail and 51st, also a 10km return trip I almost always drive. Riding along busy 106 st is simply not pleasant, especially not for shopping just after work when aggressive riders spill over on 106st from Calgary trail in their rush home to the burbs. The bike lane did nothing to change the traffic volume or the fact that a higher percentage of drivers speed on 106 st compared to quieter neighborhood streets.

I have another half dozen destinations I've figured out how to ride my bike to on pleasant separate paths or on low traffic streets. I ride to these, but take my car to other destinations.


Really the question shouldn't have restricted respondents to commuting, but I understand why it did. The City wants to enhance access to DT, facilitate employment and the alternative to driving & Public transit. Focus their commuting bang for buck.

I agree - I'm a fair-weather rider too. I have known and worked with a couple of road warriors who ride year-round. I'm not that confident, and I really dislike winter.

Heck if nothing else… perhaps the question, phrased as it was, planted the seed for some of the respondents and maybe, just maybe the will *become* cyclists.

I like to bike DT for other things than work. There's entertainment such as dining out, symphony, events at Churchill Square, farmers market, groceries, meeting friends, errands, shopping, and hitting the pub or restaurant on a nice sunny day then riding home is a delight.

I conduct the census for the City of Edmonton in part of the Oliver/Railtown area, and I live here. I walk 3 blocks to my workplace, after our office moved, 1km before. At our previous location, I would cycle often to work in the summertime - after the nasty gravel was picked up. Walking can be safer, but alternatively, I will ride my bicycle or scooter to get groceries depending on the distance to travel. I'm no hard-core cyclist.

I am surprised at the low percentage of cycling Oliver residents, I wonder why that is - did people decline to answer? Large # of seniors? Few facilities to park at? That's another focus group for another day.

Problem with the census question is trying to get everyone to answer the survey question at the door. People feel intruded as it is, and asking an in-depth question that requires thought detail or explanation just makes a lot of people cranky. I don't want to deal with that - I have 3-600 doors to knock on! The city tries to limit the number of questions, some years it's 8 or 10, some years it's been as high as 14.

I give them Kudos for trying, but hey, we could call the census office or our councillor and ask for a better-worded, clearer question!


Thanks Monica.

Another excellent reason to ask the question is that the exact same one is asked in cities all around the world, so data between jurisdictions can be compared.


I have been looking everywhere for these sorts of figures. These are extremely helpful, and I hope folks in Transportation are paying attention. (I'm forwarding much of this to my Councillor.)

Note that .7% average for such a sprawling city is still substantial, especially when compared to other cities with serious winters and very limited cycle-commuting-oriented infrastructure. .7 % is still over 5,000 people choosing cycling as their primary means of commuting. Imagine what it could become with even marginal increases in cycle infrastructure, especially if focused in and near these high-usage areas.

According to the City, by the way, adding just a single, basic, in-road bike lane has lead to increases in cyclist usage by as much as 30%.

Did you happen to look at the number of people who choose walking as their primary mode? Combining pedestrians and cyclists often reveals some interesting characteristics of cities and neighbourhoods.

Should your table headings actually read "% of people who mainly cycle to work." (When you say "% of cyclists" it sounds like the % of citizens who cycle commute is much lower.)


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