The number of people who commute to work by bicycle increased about 60 percent over the last decade, while the number of people walking to their jobs remained stable, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
During the years 2008-2012, about 786,000 Americans commuted by bicycle, up from about 488,000 in 2000, the Census says. That jump is the largest percentage increase of all commuting modes tracked by the 2000 Census and the 2008-2012 American Community Survey.
Bicyclists still account for just a fraction of all commuters: 0.6%. However, some large cities more than doubled their rate of bike commuters. Portland, Ore., had the highest bicycle commuting rate at 6.1 percent, up from 1.8 percent in 2000; Minneapolis saw its bicycle commuting rate jump from 1.9 percent to 4.1 percent.
In Seattle, bike commuting jumped from 1.9 percent in 2000 to 3.4 percent. Walking commuters also increased, from 7.4 to 9.1 percent. During this time, the total workers increased about 34,000, from 316,493 to 350,673.
Among major cities, Seattle is ranked fifth for bike commuters and seventh for walking commuters.
"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 and author of the report. "For example, many cities have invested in bike share programs, bike lanes and more pedestrian-friendly streets."
The Census Bureau's new report, "Modes Less Traveled – Bicycling and Walking to Work in the United States: 2008-2012," is the first to focus only on biking and walking to work.
May is the League of American Bicyclists' Bike to Work month, next week is Bike to Work week and Friday, May 17, is Bike to Work day.
Rebecca Serna, executive director of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, says that biking is increasing in popularity because of work by groups such as the Alliance for Biking and Walking to increase biking capacity – such as bike lanes – around the country.
"The grassroots part of the biking movement is especially significant," she says. "People start riding a little bit, then a lot and they become natural proselytizers."
One growing trend among bicycle commuters emphasizes the social aspect of biking. That is bike trains, in which groups of bikers set up a commute route, much like a carpool or a train, and join each other every workday for the ride to the job.
Walking to work is more popular than it was, but has not seen the same explosive growth as hopping the two-wheeler to work. After steadily decreasing since 1980, the percentage of people who walk to work has stabilized since 2000. In 1980, 5.6 percent of workers walked to work; that declined to 2.9 percent by 2000. However, in the years 2008-2012, the rate of walkers remained statistically unchanged.
Among large cities, Boston had the highest rate of walking to work at 15.1 percent.
Contributors: KING 5 News