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Bicycle Commuting Trends, 2000 to 2008

As we reported earlier, according to the US Census Bureau’s 2008 American Community Survey (ACS), released on September 22, 2009, 0.55 percent of Americans use a bicycle as the primary means of getting to work. This is up 14 percent since 2007, 36 percent from the first ACS in 2005, and 43 percent since the 2000 Census. (Note that the ACS methodology under-counts cycling by not counting bicycle commuters who biked just once or twice the week they were surveyed or most cyclists who bike and use public transportation for their trip to work.)

Click here to view the ACS journey to work results for the 70 largest US cities, including the 27 largest Bicycle Friendly Communities (BFCs), since 2000. Scroll right (or click on the following links) to find the share of American workers who bicycle, walk, use public transportation and drive alone. The tables show the share of commuters for 2000, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and their percent change over time. (UPDATE: the “largest BFC average” was updated on October 22 to include the four newest BFCs that are among the 70 largest US cities.)

Click here to view the ACS journey to work results for the 50 US states (and Puerto Rico). Use the tabs at the bottom for bicycle commuters and walking commuters. The sheets also include the amount of federal dollars spent on bicycle and pedestrian project between 2000 and 2008.

Here is a summary of bicycle commuting levels in the US over the past eight years.

On average, the 70 largest cities in the US, from New York City (population eight million) to Plano, Texas (population 259,000), had higher bicycle commuter levels and larger increases than the national average. The average bicycle commuter share for the largest 70 US cities in 2008 was 0.93 percent, having grown by nearly 50 percent since 2000.

Among the 70 largest cities, the 27 that have been designated by the League of American Bicyclists as Bicycle Friendly Communities (BFCs) for their pro-bicycling policies saw even higher levels of bicycle commuting and greater increases over the past eight years. In 2008, the average BFC bicycle commuter share was 1.5 percent, nearly three times the national average. BFCs also grew 60 percent more than the national average and 40 percent more than the 70 largest city average.

Bicycle Friendly Communities far outpaced the 43 largest non-BFCs, whose average bicycle commuter share is growing slower than even the national average. Between 2000 and 2008, the bicycle commuter share in the 27 largest BFCs increased by nearly 70 percent. In contrast, the share in the non-BFC cities increased only 23 percent, to 0.57 percent. This strongly suggests that the efforts of the BFCs to improve bicycling conditions by investing in engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement, and evaluation and planning are paying off with larger increases in bicycle commuters.

Some of the fastest growing communities were those that started with relatively low bicycle commuter shares in 2000. Nashville and Cleveland tripled their share, and Cincinnati doubled its, but all three still have not reached three-quarters of a percent. On the other hand, some the cities with the highest bicycle commuter levels in 2000 also saw some of the largest increases. Platinum BFC Portland, OR saw the largest growth among all 70 large cities, more than tripling their bike share, to nearly 6 percent. See complete summary for more.

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