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Who Bikes to Work in America?

Thu May 08 2014
Brian McKenzie
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As cities take steps to increase transportation options, many people choose to ride a bike to work or walk. Timed with National Bike to Work Month, the Census Bureau has released its first-ever report on biking and walking to work. If you have ever wondered who chooses this form of commuting, this report highlights annual American Community Survey information on biking and walking but also offers new information about these travel modes for specific populations.

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Although changes in rates of bicycle commuting vary across U.S. communities, many cities have experienced relatively large increases in bicycle commuting in recent years. The total number of bike commuters in the U.S. increased from about 488,000 in 2000 to about 786,000 during the period from 2008 to 2012, a larger percentage increase than that of any other commuting mode.

There are notable differences across population groups when it comes to those who walk or bike to work. As one might expect, younger workers, those ages 16 to 24, had the highest rate of walking to work, at 6.8 percent and the highest rate of bicycling to work, at 1.0 percent. On the other hand, the oldest workers had the lowest rates of biking to work. The decline in biking and walking as age increases may be linked to factors such as workers’ physical abilities, residential location and income.

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In addition to age of workers, we also see different patterns emerge for income and education. Workers with both the highest and lowest education and income levels also have the highest rates of biking to work.

In addition, more than twice as many men bike to work as women at 0.8 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively. Differences in rates of walking to work were smaller. Men walked to work at a rate of 2.9 percent, compared with 2.8 percent of women.

Although, bicycling and walking make up a relatively small portion of commuting activity in the United States, they play important roles within many of the nation’s local transportation systems. Infrastructure that supports bicycling and walking expands transportation options, and the American Community Survey provides crucial information about changes in how people get to work each year.

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For more information on bicycling and walking to work or other aspects of commuting, see our commuting home page at www.census.gov/hhes/commuting/.

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