Urban Fold

Will Portland Lose its Status as America's Bike Commuting Champion?

While bike commuting is gaining nationwide, it's actually dropping in Portland which has held the enviable title of tops in bike commuting for large cities since 2005. Minneapolis and Seattle, #2 and #3 respectively, are gaining, warns BikePortland.
Sam Beebe / flickr

BikePortland's news editor, Michael Andersen, writes that according to the latest Census' American Community Survey estimates, the city's bike commuting rate dropped "from 6.3 percent to 6.1 percent of the city's working population. Across the whole Portland metro area, bike use held at 2.3 percent."

Minneapolis' bike mode share jumped from 3.4 to 4.5 percent, the sort of increase Portland hasn't seen since the 2007 gas spike. Seattle's rose from 3.5 to 4.1 percent. In each of those cities, the bike-commuting population grew by about 3,000 workers [compared to Portland's decrease of 65].

Worse yet, the drop is not restricted to cycling. "Public transit use in Portland dropped relatively sharply last year, from 13 percent to 11.1 percent of workers in the city limit" while the drive-alone rate increased "from 57.9 to 58.5 percent", Andersen writes. 

The only positive commuting data was for walking which increased "from 4.9 percent to 6.9 percent, the highest walking mode share on record and the first time since 2007 that walking to work has been more popular among Portlanders than biking," he writes.  Good news for walking was seen "in similar cities, too: from 9 percent to 9.9 percent in Seattle and from 5.8 to 7 percent in Minneapolis."

So, in terms of bike commuting, what are Minneapolis and Seattle doing that Portland isn't? Andersen doesn't explore that question, though in a July piece, he offers five explanations in response to, "What caused Portland's biking boom?"

Is it possible that there is a biking 'plateau', and Portland has reached it? Compare Portland's aforementioned commuting rates to the nation's to put it in perspective: "biking (0.6 percent), walking (2.8 percent), riding transit (5 percent) and driving alone (76.3 percent)".

Full Story: Census: Portland biking stalls for fifth year while other cities climb

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