For the third year in a row, data released by the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey show that more than half of one percent of American workers use a bicycle as their primary mode of transportation to work. While this number represents nearly 40 percent growth since 2000, it also shows that we still have a lot of work to do in making our communities truly welcoming to bicyclists.
Updated with graph:
Kate Powlison at Bikes Belong put together this very attractive graph using the data to show the growth of bike commuting since 2000 in the largest Bicycle Friendly Communities, non-BFCs, and the national rate.
See the bike commuter estimates for the 375 cities for which the ACS released bike commuter numbers.
A look at the country’s 70 largest cities shows that the communities that have done the most to promote bicycling through engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement, and evaluation – determined by the League’s Bicycle Friendly America program – have seen greater increases in bike commuting over the past decade than non-Bicycle Friendly Communities.
Since 2005, the 38 Bicycle Friendly Communities among the 70 largest cities saw a 95 percent average increase in bicycle commuting. In contrast, the 32 non-Bicycle Friendly Communities (among the largest 70) grew 46 percent. Since 2000, large Bicycle Friendly Communities grew 78 percent, compared to 55 percent for large non-BFCs.
You can see the variations on the year-by-year table of bike commuting levels for the 70 largest US cities, but overall the general and the specific city trends are upward.
At a time when Congress is debating the future of key funding sources for bicycling projects, these cities are showing what can be done with smart investments, including Transportation Enhancements, and innovative facilities.
2010 Bike Commuter Statistics for 375 cities (all cities over 65,000 population that had bike commuter estimates)
ACS limitations, notes, and cautions
- The ACS asks only about commuting. It does not tell us about bicycling for non-work purposes.
- Results are based on a survey of a sample of the population. Surveys take place throughout the year. The journey to work question asks respondents about the previous week.
- The journey to work question asks about the primary mode of transportation to work. The wording of the question undercounts the actual amount of bike commuting that occurs. It does not count people who rode once or twice a week or people who bike to transit (if the transit leg is longer than the bike leg).
- Since the ACS is a survey of a sample, the results are estimates. The ACS releases a margin of error along with the estimate. Users can add and subtract the margin of error value from the estimate to find the top and bottom of the range within which the ACS is 90 percent confident in their estimate lies. Refer to the 2010 city table for margins of error.
- Changes among years may not be statistically significant. Be cautious when drawing conclusions based on one year changes. Look at the trend over a number of years.
- The numbers reported here are for the “principal city,” not the larger Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA).
- UPDATE: A note of caution from the US Census Bureau: ”The 2009 ACS and 2010 ACS 1-year estimates use different Census base years for the population estimates used in the ACS weighting. Estimates of population size are not comparable between 2009 and 2010. Estimates of percent distributions, rates, and ratios should be compared with caution. For more details, visit the ACS Research Note Change in Population Controls [PDF 366K].” The Bureau is urging users to use caution in interpreting the results, but not suggesting that users avoid comparisons all together.
- For detailed questions about methodology, contact the American Community Survey Office at 301-763-9810.
League Policy Director
Flusche joined the League in April 2009 and has a B.A. in history from Syracuse University and a Masters of Public Administration with a concentration in public policy analysis from New York University.