Using Weather Forecasts to Forecast Whether Bikes are Used

Wessel Jan

Although several papers have shown that bike ridership is affected by actual weather conditions, this is the first study to comprehensively investigate the impact of forecasted weather conditions on bike ridership. The results show that both actual and forecasted weather conditions can be used as useful explanatory variables for predicting bicycle usage. Even incorrect weather forecasts can impact on bike ridership, which underlines the importance of weather forecast effects for traffic planners; for example, forecasted rain can reduce bike traffic by 3.6% in periods that turn out to be rain-free. Additionally, a digital image-processing method is used to calculate the darkness of the cloud coverage displayed on weather forecast maps. The results imply that bike ridership is significantly smaller in regions with darker forecasted clouds. It is also shown that weather forecasts have a stronger impact on recreational bike traffic than on utilitarian traffic. Furthermore, various lagging and leading effects of rain forecasts are outlined. Morning rain forecasts can, for example, reduce bike ridership in midday and afternoon hours that were predicted to be rain-free. To derive these results, hourly bicycle counts from 188 automated counting stations in Germany are collected for the years 2017 and 2018. They are linked to actual weather data from Germany’s National Meteorological Service and with historical weather forecasts that are deduced from weather maps of Germany’s most-watched television news program. Log-linear and negative binomial regression models are then used to estimate the weather forecast effects.

Cycling; Bike ridership; Automated counting stations; Weather conditions; Weather forecasts; Image processing

Publication type
Forschungsartikel (Zeitschrift)

Peer reviewed

Publication status


Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice


Pages range
537 - 559




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