Portland ranks first in nation for biking to work

A larger share of Portlanders commute by bicycle than in any other large city in America, eight times the national average, according to the director of the U.S. Census Bureau, who took note of the statistic during a presentation Wednesday at City Hall.

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Published June 14, 2007 by The Oregonian
By James Mayer 

A larger share of Portlanders commute by bicycle than in any other large city in America, eight times the national average, according to the director of the U.S. Census Bureau, who took note of the statistic during a presentation Wednesday at City Hall.

The city's love affair with bikes is not new, but it's nice to be noticed by the nation's top people counter.

"It's like a Swiss city, clean, with trains and bikes everywhere," said Louis Kincannon.

The census director chose Portland to release an analysis of 2005 commuting data to highlight the usefulness of the Census Bureau's annual American Community Survey, which will take the place of the long-form census questionnaire in 2010.

The survey found that 3.5 percent of Portland workers commuted by bike in 2005. Ranking second was Minneapolis at 2.4 percent, then Seattle, at 2.3 percent. The national average for cities with more than 65,000 population was 0.4 percent.

"It's not surprising" that Portland ranked No. 1 in bike commuting, said Scott Bricker, policy director for the Bicycle Transportation Alliance. Portland has been ranked the nation's top cycling city in national cycling magazines in recent years.

Bricker said Portland has been working to improve cycling in the city for the past 10 or 15 years, and it has really paid off in the past two or three years. "This isn't peaking," he added.

Jonathan Maus, an advocate who runs the blog BikePortland.org, said the 2005 census data has been available since August, but he has focused more on the fact that bike commuting in Portland doubled in five years.

Portland looks better than the national average on other transportation measures as well.

Despite rising fuel costs, commuters continued to favor driving to work in 2005, but less so in Portland than in many cities. The survey found that 77 percent of Americans drove to work alone, compared with 62.4 percent of Portlanders.

In Portland, 13.3 percent of commuters took public transportation, twice the national average, but less than Seattle at 17 percent.

"With each succeeding year, we'll be able to see how people respond to changing circumstances, such as rising gas prices," instead of having to wait 10 years between census counts, Kincannon said.

Other commuting highlights:

About 3.6 percent of Americans worked from home in 2005. Portland ranked second behind San Francisco at 5.3 percent.

Boston had the highest percentage of employees who walk to work with 13 percent. Portland with 4.3 percent was more than the national average of 2.5.

The 2005 estimates are based on an annual, nationwide household sample of about 250,000 addresses a month.

James Mayer: 503-294-4109; jimmayer@news.oregonian.com