Just over 6% of Madison residents biked to work in 2010, a 20% increase over 2009 according to the latest American Community Survey results released late yesterday morning by the US Census Bureau. That puts Madison in a tie with Portland, OR, which also has 6% of commuters going by bicycle. As a state, .75% of Wisconsin commuters go by bike, which is 50% higher than the national average of .50%.
The League of American Bicyclists have been working on this and so has the staff at the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin. After a day to drill down into the data, here is the picture for cities in Wisconsin:
|City||Population||Total Workers||% Bike Commuters||Number of Bike commuters|
Because the sample sizes vary from year to year, smaller cities drop in and out of the data sets. Notably missing from the 2010 data are La Crosse which was at 2.1% and is now a Silver Level Bicycle Friendly Community, and Stevens Point, which led the state at 5.9% when Madison was at 4.2% in earlier data sets. It would be interesting to see if those cities made similar gains. The Bike Fed will continue to look at this new data over the next week or so and report again if we can dig out the other cities.
Bicycle commuting is on the rise in cities across Wisconsin and the country. Milwaukee made modest gains of 16% over last year, but is up 107% since the 2000 Census. Madison has increased more than 188% since 2000. As a reference point, the city with the highest percentage of bicycle commuters is Davis, CA at 22%. The Bike Fed will continue to look at this new data over the next week or so and report again if we can dig out the missing cities and come up with percentage increases for all places included in the 2010 ACS.
While this is good news, it is important to note a couple of things. First, the survey only looks at means of transportation to work, which account for less than 20% of all trips taken in the US and they are among the most difficult to take by bike. Many people who don’t bike to work do bike to the corner store, to the movies, to the cafe, etc.
Also important is the way the question is phrased. It asks what the primary mode of transportation was for the previous week. So weather can play a huge factor in changing results. If a city experienced a particularly cold or rainy week, the data will be way down that year and may not reflect the overall mode share for the rest of the year. The best way to monitor increases in cycling is to do actual counts. Unfortunately few municipalities do bike counts and those that do, don’t always do them on the same days, times or in the same manner, which makes them difficult to compare.
The National Bicycle & Pedestrian Documentation Project is an attempt to gather apples to apples data for bicycle and pedestrians. Cities are being encouraged to follow their methodology and all do counts on the same days. This will not tell the communities much the first year, but after that benchmark, it is easy to see trends. The Bike Fed is considering trying to coordinate counts around Wisconsin for next spring as part of the national effort.
The Bike Fed’s regional ambassadors could help out, but it would still require volunteers in each community to count for two hours in the morning peak travel hours and two hours in the evening as well. Let us know via the comment below if you would help do bike counts in your community next year.