Forty-six percent of Montana adults 18 and older bicycled in the past 12 months, according to a recent study conducted by the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research at the University of Montana. 

Institute Director Norma Nickerson said this study is a bit unusual, because it deals only with Montana residents, and not tourists or visitors.

One aspect that may not come as a surprise is the perception by many that bicycling in Montana is not a safe activity.

photo courtesy of UM

"Only 13 percent of those responding said they thought bicycling in Montana was somewhat or very safe," Nickerson said. "We interviewed over 8,000 people in January, February and March and the majority of people surveyed said they don't think bicycling is very safe. They told survey takers that the shoulders on the road are too narrow and the motorists are going too fast for safety."

Another aspect of the survey revealed two separate and distinct groups, bicyclists who don't like motorists, and motorists who don't like bicyclists, and the one thing both groups had in common was their shared ignorance of current laws regarding the relationship between the two groups.

photo courtesy of UM

"Our surveyors told us there's a strong group of people who just hate the bicyclists, they don't want them on the road, and there's an equally strong group of bicyclists who get irritated at the motorists for not realizing they're also on the road," she said. "One of the questions on the survey was knowledge of current bicycle laws, and it shows up in the emotions of both groups. There needs to be some education in the bicycle world in terms of how bicycles are supposed to be treated on the road, and how bicyclists are supposed to behave on the road, it goes both ways."

Bicycling is most popular during the summer months, when 97 percent of Montana cyclists say they ride. But, there are a hardy 11 percent of Montanans who ride in the winter months, including 20 percent of adults in Montana who commute to work on a bike.