Menus Subscribe Search

Follow us


bike-commuting

(PHOTO: MRDOGGS/SHUTTERSTOCK)

Commuting by Bike Was Way Up Last Year

• October 17, 2013 • 9:32 AM

(PHOTO: MRDOGGS/SHUTTERSTOCK)

But it’s still a tiny, tiny percentage of trips compared to cars. And walking is falling.

Some new census figures are out on how Americans get to work. They found commuting by bicycle was up nine percent. It’s probably up more than that: The census only counts you as a “bike commuter” if you pedal to work more than half of your workdays. If you pedal to work only in perfect weather, the 100 days from the end of the cold in March to the start of the heat in June, you don’t count. But three people doing that is nearly a year’s worth of days. However you slice it, the number of people biking to work is up a lot.

The sample found 140 million Americans commuted to work last year. Even the nine percent leap in cyclists only brings bikes to six-tenths of one percent of American commutes.

The raw numbers, which are at the Census Bureau’s website here, show just under 856,000 Americans biking to work at least half the time in 2012. To put that in some perspective, seven million took public transportation, and the overwhelming majority drove cars. The sample found 140 million Americans commuted to work last year. Even the nine percent leap in cyclists only brings bikes to six-tenths of one percent of American commutes. By comparison, 121 million of the 140 million commute trips last year were in a private car or truck. Of those, most drove alone, 107 million of the total 121 million. Only 13 million or so carpooled.

D.C. Streets Blog‘s Tanya Snyder dug in to the numbers to point out that while biking is up, walking to work is falling. Just shy of four million people walked to work in 2012, which Snyder notes is nearly three percent of the total—compared to the barely half of one percent who bike—but that hoofing it has seen “a 28 percent drop in mode share since 1990, when nearly 4.5 million people commuted on foot.”

It’s worth noting the numbers are national, and bike commuting is a local phenomenon. Distances are smaller in cities, where bike commuting is more popular than in rural or suburban areas. The League of American Bicyclists, which tracks commute statistics, notes that the second-highest percentage of bike commuters in any American city is in Minneapolis, where 4.5 percent commute by bike, despite some cold winters. The highest percentage is in, not surprisingly, famously bike-friendly Portland, Oregon, but even there only just over six percent of commutes are by bike. In Los Angeles, the famous hub of American car culture, it’s one percent—still nearly double the national average, and rising each year for the past five, according to the League stats, which you can download (Excel file) here.

Six of the 10 communities with the lowest rates of bike commuting, a tenth of one percent, are in Texas and Oklahoma, according to the League stats. The lowest rated are the Texas cities of Plano and El Paso. Lance Armstrong is from Plano, for whatever that’s worth at this point.

Marc Herman

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

October 24 • 2:00 AM

Congratulations, Your City Is Dying!

Don’t take population numbers at face value.


October 23 • 4:00 PM

Of Course Marijuana Addiction Exists

The polarized legalization debate leads to exaggerated claims and denials about pot’s potential harms. The truth lies somewhere in between.


October 23 • 2:00 PM

American Companies Are Getting Way Too Cozy With the National Security Agency

Newly released documents describe “contractual relationships” between the NSA and U.S. companies, as well as undercover operatives.


October 23 • 12:00 PM

The Man Who’s Quantifying New York City

Noah Davis talks to the proprietor of I Quant NY. His methodology: a little something called “addition.”


October 23 • 11:02 AM

Earliest High-Altitude Settlements Found in Peru

Discovery suggests humans adapted to high altitude faster than previously thought.


October 23 • 10:00 AM

The Psychology of Bribery and Corruption

An FBI agent offered up confidential information about a political operative’s enemy in exchange for cash—and they both got caught. What were they thinking?


October 23 • 8:00 AM

Ebola News Gives Me a Guilty Thrill. Am I Crazy?

What it means to feel a little excited about the prospect of a horrific event.


October 23 • 7:04 AM

Why Don’t Men Read Romance Novels?

A lot of men just don’t read fiction, and if they do, structural misogyny drives them away from the genre.


October 23 • 6:00 AM

Why Do Americans Pray?

It depends on how you ask.


October 23 • 4:00 AM

Musicians Are Better Multitaskers

New research from Canada finds trained musicians more efficiently switch from one mental task to another.


October 22 • 4:00 PM

The Last Thing the Women’s Movement Needs Is a Heroic Male Takeover

Is the United Nations’ #HeForShe campaign helping feminism?


October 22 • 2:00 PM

Turning Public Education Into Private Profits

Baker Mitchell is a politically connected North Carolina businessman who celebrates the power of the free market. Every year, millions of public education dollars flow through Mitchell’s chain of four non-profit charter schools to for-profit companies he controls.


October 22 • 12:00 PM

Will the End of a Tax Loophole Kill Off Irish Business and Force Google and Apple to Pay Up?

U.S. technology giants have constructed international offices in Dublin in order to take advantage of favorable tax policies that are now changing. But Ireland might have enough other draws to keep them there even when costs climb.


October 22 • 10:00 AM

Veterans in the Ivory Tower

Why there aren’t enough veterans at America’s top schools—and what some people are trying to do to change that.


October 22 • 8:00 AM

Our Language Prejudices Don’t Make No Sense

We should embrace the fact that there’s no single recipe for English. Making fun of people for replacing “ask” with “aks,” or for frequently using double negatives just makes you look like the unsophisticated one.


October 22 • 7:04 AM

My Politicians Are Better Looking Than Yours

A new study finds we judge the cover by the book—or at least the party.


October 22 • 6:00 AM

How We Form Our Routines

Whether it’s a morning cup of coffee or a glass of warm milk before bed, we all have our habitual processions. The way they become engrained, though, varies from person to person.


October 22 • 4:00 AM

For Preschoolers, Spite and Smarts Go Together

New research from Germany finds greater cognitive skills are associated with more spiteful behavior in children.


October 21 • 4:00 PM

Why the Number of Reported Sexual Offenses Is Skyrocketing at Occidental College

When you make it easier to report assault, people will come forward.


October 21 • 2:00 PM

Private Donors Are Supplying Spy Gear to Cops Across the Country Without Any Oversight

There’s little public scrutiny when private donors pay to give police controversial technology and weapons. Sometimes, companies are donors to the same foundations that purchase their products for police.


October 21 • 12:00 PM

How Clever Do You Think Your Dog Is?

Maybe as smart as a four-year-old child?


October 21 • 10:00 AM

Converting the Climate Change Non-Believers

When hard science isn’t enough, what can be done?



October 21 • 8:00 AM

Education Policy Is Stuck in the Manufacturing Age

Refining our policies and teaching social and emotional skills will help us to generate sustained prosperity.


October 21 • 7:13 AM

That Cigarette Would Make a Great Water Filter

Clean out the ashtray, add some aluminum oxide, and you’ve (almost) got yourself a low-cost way to remove arsenic from drinking water.


Follow us


Earliest High-Altitude Settlements Found in Peru

Discovery suggests humans adapted to high altitude faster than previously thought.

My Politicians Are Better Looking Than Yours

A new study finds we judge the cover by the book—or at least the party.

That Cigarette Would Make a Great Water Filter

Clean out the ashtray, add some aluminum oxide, and you've (almost) got yourself a low-cost way to remove arsenic from drinking water.

Love and Hate in Israel and Palestine

Psychologists find that parties to a conflict think they're motivated by love while their enemies are motivated by hate.

How to Water a Farm in Sandy Ground

Physicists investigate how to grow food more efficiently in fine-grained soil.

The Big One

One company, Amazon, controls 67 percent of the e-book market in the United States—down from 90 percent five years ago. September/October 2014 new-big-one-5

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.