Biking to work increases 60% in the last decade
Larry Copeland, USA TODAY 11:27 a.m. EDT May 8, 2014
The number of people who commute to work by bicycle increased about 60% over the last decade, while the number of people walking to their jobs remained stable, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
During the years 2008-2012, about 786,000 Americans commuted by bicycle, up from about 488,000 in 2000, the Census says. That jump is the largest percentage increase of all commuting modes tracked by the 2000 Census and the 2008-2012 American Community Survey.
Bicyclists still account for just a fraction of all commuters: 0.6%. However, some large cities more than doubled their rate of bike commuters. Portland, Ore., had the highest bicycle commuting rate at 6.1%, up from 1.8% in 2000; Minneapolis saw its bicycle commuting rate jump from 1.9% to 4.1%.
“In recent years, many communities have taken steps to support more transportation options, such as bicycling and walking,” said Brian McKenzie, a Census Bureau sociologist and author of the report. “For example, many cities have invested in bike share programs, bike lanes and more pedestrian-friendly streets.”
The Census Bureau’s new report, “Modes Less Traveled – Bicycling and Walking to Work in the United States: 2008-2012,” is the first to focus only on biking and walking to work.
May is the League of American Bicyclists’ Bike to Work month, next week is Bike to Work week and Friday, May 17, is Bike to Work day.
Rebecca Serna, executive director of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, says that biking is increasing in popularity because of work by groups such as the Alliance for Biking and Walking to increase biking capacity – such as bike lanes – around the country.
“The grassroots part of the biking movement is especially significant,” she says. “People start riding a little bit, then a lot and they become natural proselytizers.”
One growing trend among bicycle commuters emphasizes the social aspect of biking. That is bike trains, in which groups of bikers set up a commute route, much like a carpool or a train, and join each other every workday for the ride to the job.
Walking to work is more popular than it was, but has not seen the same explosive growth as hopping the two-wheeler to work. After steadily decreasing since 1980, the percentage of people who walk to work has stabilized since 2000. In 1980, 5.6% of workers walked to work; that declined to 2.9% by 2000. However, in the years 2008-2012, the rate of walkers remained statistically unchanged.
Among large cities, Boston had the highest rate of walking to work at 15.1%.
Women walk to work as frequently as men, but bike 1/3 as frequently as men.
Blacks bike half as much as other races (no such difference for walking).
Poor people walk and bike at much higher rates than the rich.
Biking and walking is 2-3 times as common among the young as among the old.
The distribution with education is U-shaped: bicycling is 2-3 times as common among those at the top (with graduate degrees) and those at the bottom (lacking a high school diploma) compared to those in the middle (with just a high school diploma).
Average commute times for walkers are 12 minutes, 20 for cyclists and 26 for all others who did not work at home (drivers and public transit users).
For walking, the three large cities with the highest rates are Boston (15% are walkers), Washington DC (12%) and Pittsburgh (11%). The small city with the most walkers is Ithaca, NY (42%). For cycling, the large cities with the highest rates are Portland, OR (6%), Madison, WI (5%), and Minneapolis (4%). The small city with the highest rate of cycling is Davis, CA (19%).
It’s interesting how walking is declining, and cycling was declining, but has started to rebound: