Bicycle Commuter Trends in the US- Graphic Representation

A University of Oregon student has released a great graphic depiction of America’s bicycle mode share, government spending on bike/ped infrastructure, and bicycle-related fatalities. Kory Northrop created the map, graphs, and text for an advanced cartography class and it gives a nice visual representation of various bike numbers. Besides being relevant to Eugene because it was created by a UO student, it also helps to show that the more we invest in bicycle infrastructure, the more likely it is that we will actually get our ridership up as well as our fatalities down– an important thing to consider as we move forward with the Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan. Here are the graphs and map followed by the text and sources. Thanks to Kory for sharing.

Bicycle Commuting Trends in the United States

Click to Enlarge

After multiple decades of auto-centric funding and policies, the American transportation system and built environment has become difficult to navigate by methods other than the automobile. This reality is highlighted by the fact that half of the trips in the United States could be traveled in 20 minutes or less via bicycle and a quarter of the trips could be walked in 20 minutes or less. However, the majority of these trips are made in automobiles.

Bicycle transportation has received significant attention in recent years due to its potential to increase mobility, alleviate traffic congestion, reduce negative environmental impacts, and combat public health issues. These problems will only worsen if left unchecked making them that much more difficult to overcome. Policymakers and citizens alike are interested in bicycle transportation and the potential that it has to bring positive changes throughout their communities.

In a time when local, state, and national governments face daunting budget deficits, investments in bicycle transportation have become even more lucrative. Investments in bicycle infrastructure are highly cost-efficient; hundreds of miles of bicycle infrastructure can be built for the same price as one mile of a four-lane urban highway. One hundred miles of bicycle infrastructure is enough to create a sea change of mobility for the people living in the United States who lack access to cars or who wish to travel by other methods. However, getting people to move away from the automobile cannot happen without having affordable, comprehensive, and safe alternatives in place. History has shown that Americans are responsive to utilizing bicycle infrastructure once it becomes convenient and safe.

Where does the United States stand now? How has the situation changed over the past few decades? The data show that bicycle commuting has increased more than 150% from 2004 to 2009, safety has improved, and government funding has also increased. While the United States has come a long way in improving bicycle infrastructure nationwide, there is still a lot of work to be done in order to make bicycling an attractive and viable alternative to driving.

U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey –
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) –
Federal Highway Administration –
Gotschi, T. and Mills, K. (2008) Active transportation for America: The case for increased federal investment in bicycling and walking. Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

Created by: Kory Northrop
University of Oregon – 2011

Author: Shane Rhodes

Contributor & co-editor. Papa. Active Transportation Professional. Supporter of all the BEST things...

9 thoughts on “Bicycle Commuter Trends in the US- Graphic Representation”

  1. Great graphic, lots of interesting data to chew on. I had heard statistics about the disparity between numbers of male and female cyclists before, but seeing it in graph form made it really hit home for me. (Nice to see that the ratios for the state of Oregon are not so disparate as, say, Nevada at least…

  2. Hi – I’m the Bike/Ped Coordinator for the City of Davis. I’m curious why we didn’t make the graphic? We have a commute mode share upwards of 15%, and invest heavily in bike infrastructure. We were the first city in the US to achieve the Platinum Bike-Friendly designation. I know we are small, but we should still make the map! 🙂

  3. Eugene didn’t make it either, and our commute rate (10.8%)is almost double Portland’s. I’m guessing they were only looking at cities with a population greater than XX thousand.

  4. I am happy that y’all chimed in with some comments. Let me respond to some of the points raised:

    Eric – I did not do a breakdown for Oregon. I agree that it’d be interesting to see that finer, state-level data.

    Editz & Tara – As Mike surmised, the reason I did not include Eugene or Davis on this map, despite their high commuter levels, is because of their population size. The city dataset that I used included only the 70 largest cities in the U.S. The smallest city in that group is Plano, TX (population of 259,305). The cities that I did highlight are the top ten commuter cities among the 70 largest cities in the States. I don’t think that this is necessarily the best group of cities to highlight, but I thought it’d be interesting for the scope of my project. I think it’d be interesting to look at the largest cities (so you see New York City, Los Angeles, Dallas, etc.), the lowest commuter rates, and the highest commuter rates regardless of city size.

    If any of y’all interested in a revised version of this map that is more tailored to your community or needs feel free to contact me [northrop (at)] and I could most likely make some adjustments.

  5. Cool graphics and measurements!

    Perhaps Seattle’s female percentage of riders is lower because of their helmet law. It seems to create the impression that biking is very dangerous. Women tend to rate safety as a bigger concern than men. The law probably depresses overall biking rates, too.

  6. I wonder why the gender balance is so different in the different cities, from 44% in Minneapolis down to 21% in Honolulu.

  7. One theory about female rates of commuting was that it would be higher where commutes were friendlier–i.e. less of a macho urban warrior thing. It looks like Oregon has the highest rate of the country. Is Oregon unusual in that 1% (I think?) of all transportation $ are required to be spent on bikes and peds?

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