Playa Life: Biking vs. Walking

The primary modes of transportation on the Playa are biking and walking. In fact, the city was designed to promote these ways of getting around so it is not surprising that 92.3% of people who responded to the 2013 Census also reported they used a bike during their week at Burning Man. Of those people using bikes, 94.42% said the bike was their own, while the others used a borrowed bike on the Playa. Just over 3% of individuals without a bike responded that they wished they had one. Another 2.35% of people did not have a bike and did not say they had wished they had one.


The 2013 Census also inquired about estimates of biking and walking time in hours per day. First, walking habits will be discussed. 16.61% of respondents said they spent less than one hour per day walking to get from place to place. The majority of people, 35.11%, found that they walked 1-2 hours per day. One step (ha!) up from that, were the 22.89% of people that walked about 2-3 hours per day. Some individuals strolled even more than that per day at Burning Man – 16.29% said they walked a whopping 3-4 hours daily! And nearly one-tenth of folks used their legs for more than four hours of bipedal transportation per day.

With biking being such a popular way of getting around, it was only logical to also ask how much time people were spending per day using this type of transportation. About one in ten individuals who used a bike reported they pedaled around for less than one hour per day while in Black Rock City. About double that amount of people found that they biked between 1-2 hours per day. The most popular answer among bicyclists in 2013 was that each day they biked for 2-3 hours; this group was 29.41% of the sample. About a quarter of people rode for 3-4 hours daily while 13.31% wheeled around for more than four hours per day.


Time estimates of walking compared to those of biking yield an interesting pattern. It appears that while most of the walking for individuals was under three hours per day, the majority of biking was over three hours a day. This seems counter-intuitive, as walking certainly takes longer than bicycling. Does this mean the individuals who are walking just happen to be situated closer to their destinations? Or are they just not traveling as far because of the time commitment? Likewise, are those on bikes seeing more of the playa and participating more? Or are they missing out because of all the time they’re spending on their bikes? There are also the implications of individuals who are using a combination of these transportation options. Viewing the data this way, it is easy to assume that bikes are used to travel far distances while walking is chosen for the shorter journeys taken during Burning Man.

Written by:
Veronica Santistevan

Edited by:
Tabitha Palmer aka Tabicat


3 responses

  1. It might be interesting to combine these findings with studies regarding people’s perception of time. Without being educated on the matter, I would guess that people over-estimate since they have to add up all of the different instances they spent walking or biking within a day. I think this would be my tendency, anyway. BTW, thank you for posting these results. Hella interesting stuff!

  2. So just to clarify, it was actually more than half of the non-bikers that regretted not having one (3% vs. 2.35%)? This would be a good statistic to share with people planning their first burn and asking “Do I really need a bike…?”

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