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Bicycling and walking to work is on the rise, both here and nationally

  • Blog Post by: Tim Harlow
  • May 8, 2014 - 3:01 PM

This is Twin Cities Bike Week, and just as bicycle enthusiasts are trying to get more people to ride comes a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau that says the number of people who pedal to work rose by 60 percent over the past decade, from 488,000 in 2000 to 786,000 in the four-year period of 2008-2012.

That was the largest percentage increase of all commuting modes tracked by the 2000 Census and the most recent American Community Survey.

Minneapolis saw a significant jump in the number of people who said they biked to work, rising from 1.9 percent in 2000 to 4.1 percent between 2008 and 2012. And the number of people in Minneapolis who walked to work remained at 6.6 percent, virtually unchanged from 2000, according to the Modes Less Traveled: Bicycling and Walking to Work in the United States: 2008-2012 report released Thursday.

Overall the biking rate for the seven-county metro area was 0.9 percent, the report said.

Putting those percentages into practical numbers, the Met Council says 8,300 residents in Minneapolis commute by bicycle while 1,600 do so in St. Paul. Metro wide, 17,000 ride their bikes to work.

"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 who authored the report.For example, many cities have invested in bike share programs, bike lanes and more pedestrian-friendly streets."

Portland, Oregon had the highest rate of workers who commute to their jobs by bicycle at 6.1 percent. Minneapolis joined Denver, Seattle, San Francisco, Boise, Idaho, Washington DC. and Madison, Wis. as cities that saw significant increases in the number of bicycle commuters. Those seven cities recorded a 3 percent share or greater. In 2000 no American city had more than 3 percent of workers commuting by bicycle.

The report found that overall rate for bicycle commuting in the 50 largest U.S. cities rose from 0.6 percent in 2000 to 1 percent between 2008 and 2012. 

Other highlights from the report:

  • The West had the highest rate of bike commuters with 1.1 percent while the South had the lowest at 0.3 percent
  • The median commute time for those who bike to work was 19.3 minutes. For all other modes beside walking, median commute time was 25.9 minutes.
  • Men were more likely to bike than women, 0.8 percent compared with 0.3 percent
  • Those with graduate or professional degrees or higher and those with less than a high school degree had the highest rates of biking to work, 0.9 and 0.7 percent respectively.
  • African Americans had the lowest biking to work rate at 0.3 percent
  • Those who made $10,000 or less accounted for 1.5 percent of those riding to work

As far as walking in concerned, those in the Northeast had the highest rate with 4.7 percent walking to work. In college towns such as Ithaca, N.Y., 42 percent walked to their jobs.  The median walk time was 11.5 minutes..

The South had the lowest rate of walkers at 1.8 percent while Boston recorded 15 percent of its workforce arriving to work on foot, the highest of all cities in the nation. Minneapolis ranked 13th in the percentage of workers who walked.

Not surprisingly, those in core cities were more likely to walk to work than those in the suburbs, with 4.3 percent vs. 2.4 percent. Those with high school degrees or who did not finish walked the most (3.7 percent) while graduate degree holders walked the least at 2.7 percent.  Those who make less than $10,000 a year had the highest rate of walkers with 8.2 percent.

© 2014 Star Tribune