John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
The city’s rate of cycle commuting is the highest it’s ever been.
Judging from its glut of bike blogs alone—among them Bike Portland, Urban Adventure League, Portlandize, Bicycle Kitty, Portland Pedal Power, The Simplicity of Vintage Cycles, The Sprocket Podcast, and, er, Bike Smut (NSFW-ish)—one might suspect Oregon’s weirdest city has a thing for cycling.
New numbers from the U.S. Census back up that notion. In 2014, Portland led the nation for the rate of people biking to work in major cities,* according to American Community Survey data released yesterday. Slightly more than 7 percent of the city’s commuters chose to pedal—that’s about 23,350 people, a leap of 27 percent over 2013’s estimate of roughly 18,300 commuters.
The survey indicates that last year about 904,500 people cycled to their jobs throughout the U.S. (Nearly 111 million drove a car alone.) Locals probably won’t be surprised they’re kicking butt at pedaling, as last year the Census announced Portland had the highest bike-commute rate among large cities from 2008 to 2012.
Portland’s transpo department crows of the latest honorific in a press release:
“Two of the greatest threats we face are climate disruption and rising health care costs,” said Commissioner Steve Novick, who oversees the Portland Bureau of Transportation. “Bicycles are potent weapons against both threats, because when you're riding a bike, you're getting healthier and you're not emitting greenhouse gases. Many people understand that, but assume that only a tiny fraction of people will ever ride a bike. But that's not true. The numbers can grow—and now we know that they are growing.”
“Portlanders should be proud that we continue to use bikes at the highest rate of any major city in the nation,” said Portland Transportation Director Leah Treat. “Today’s record rate of bike commuting is a result of decades of investment in projects that make it safer for people to use bikes and programs that encourage people to try biking. When we make it safer for people to bike, we all benefit with cleaner air, lower carbon emissions and a healthier community.”
In 2013, Portland had a bike commute rate of 5.9 percent and in 2004 the rate was 2.8 percent.
*Correction: While Portland has the highest bike-to-work rates for major U.S. cities, several smaller cities have higher rates, such as Davis, California, and Boulder, Colorado.
the largest major city