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Here's what bike commuting looks like in 12 major cities

Bicyclists cross the Brooklyn Bridge.
Bicyclists cross the Brooklyn Bridge.
Sylwia Kapuscinski/Getty Images
Agnes Mazur is the associate director of audience at Vox, shaping Vox’s presence across its website, newsletters, and social platforms.

Would it surprise you to learn that bicyclists in New York City are some of the fastest in the US, or that most bicycle commutes happen on a Tuesday?

The data comes from the GPS-tracking workout app Strava, which recently analyzed 136 billion data points from its bicycling and running users to create a snapshot of activity in 12 major cities around the world.

With more than a million active users, Strava has quite the data set to work with. It focused on everything from speed and duration of rides to the most popular routes and times of day for bicycling. Explore the data for yourself at Strava Insights, or take a look at some of the interesting conclusions below.

Amsterdam is the fastest city globally

How Amsterdam compares with Sao Paulo, one of the slower cities.

Strava Insights

Of the 12 cities used for this data set, it's unsurprising that Amsterdam, one of the busiest cycling hubs, racks up the longest average rides and fastest average speed at 15.9 miles an hour. It obviously helps to be a flat city; Sao Paulo's massive average elevation gain contributes to lower distance and speed metrics.

Runners-up for fastest city: Melbourne (14.9 mph), Paris (14.7 mph), and Sydney (14.4 mph).

London is one of the most active bicycling cities

London New York biking stats Strava

London dwarfs New York City for individual activities, but New Yorkers still put in longer rides.

Strava Insights

Which cities log the most rides? While a factor in the final tally is the number of users actively tracking their rides, the overall numbers still have London beating every other city by a long shot.

With more than 7 million rides logged over the past 12 months, London dwarfs even the closest runner-up cities: Amsterdam (2.7 million total activities), Melbourne (2.3 million total activities), and Los Angeles (2.2 million total activities).

At least it's reassuring to know that New Yorkers have trumped their counterparts across the Atlantic with a longer average ride.

Cyclists don't just ride for fun; commuting is key

Biking to work is on the rise across the US, and of the American cities profiled, regular commutes account for roughly 40 percent of logged rides. The maps also show well-traversed bicycle commuter corridors, often with protected or separated bicycle lanes.

New Yorkers predominantly use the 32-mile Hudson River Greenway to get down the island and major avenues like First and Second, while the bridges provide a channel to commute into the city from Brooklyn.

New York City's commute.

Strava Insights

San Francisco, with the most average daily commuters of the US cities, also sticks to arterial roads such as Market Street and follow established routes such as the San Francisco Bay Trail.

San Francisco's commute.

Strava Insights

And Los Angeles, with the longest average commuting distance, takes advantage of the wide streets such as Seventh, Main, and Grand Avenue, as well as a partial bike lane along Sunset Boulevard.

Los Angeles's commute.

Strava Insights

Bike lanes in the US are up, but the US still has a long way to go

In New York City, an increase in protected bike lanes has helped bring more bicyclists safely onto the roads while also reducing car congestion.

But for commuters and your average riders, safety on the road poses a major concern. It's not surprising, then, to see the number of rides jump fivefold on a day like the Five Boro Bike Tour, when roads are closed to car traffic.

New York City bike statistics strava most active day

New York City's most active day.

Strava Insights

Across the globe, similar events — such as LA's CicLAVia and major marathons or races that have shut down city streets to car traffic — bring bicyclists out in droves.

This is one glimpse of a much bigger picture

Taking the data with a grain of salt, Strava users might be more likely to be riders who have both the time and resources to capture their weekend rides than casual riders.

Getting a sense of the global rise of lower-income riders who don't use such apps regularly is an ongoing project, which many bike-share systems and bicycle infrastructure programs have struggled to address.