What the Census says about bicycle commuting

UPDATE 11-08-10: I wrote a post comparing the commuting statistics between Chicago, Minneapolis, and St. Paul.

UPDATE 02-12-11: Added 2009 data.

Prompted by this entry on BikePortland about the rise of bicycle commuting and the bicycle mode share in Portland, Oregon, I decided to research what the American Community Survey says about the mode share of bicycles as part of commuting where I live: Chicago. I’ll also post bicycle’s share of commuting for other locales, as well.

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Some definitions, first:

  • Commuting means travel to and from work – the Census Bureau calls this “MEANS OF TRANSPORTATION TO WORK.” The Census Bureau does not collect information on travel to shopping, medical services, and other places in the decennial census or the yearly American Community Survey (which will supposedly replace the decennial census).
  • Block means the smallest area for which the Census Bureau reports statistics. Any smaller and the possibility that someone could personally identify you from the responses increases. Find your block. The American Community Survey reports information for much larger areas: In some cases, researchers can only select data at the county level. The Census Bureau provides information for the City of Chicago and other municipal divisions of many counties in Illinois.
  • Subject definitions. These describe the question asked to participants and include clarifying information in the case the participant doesn’t understand the question, or their answer is complex. Download the subject definitions for the 2008 American Community Survey.
  • Margin of error (MOE) means the high and low end of confidence. Read more about margin of error on the Census Bureau’s website.

For the American Community Survey, I found table S0801, Commuting Characteristics by Sex. In the decennial census, I found table  P30. MEANS OF TRANSPORTATION TO WORK FOR WORKERS 16 YEARS AND OVER. If you want to check my research, look for these tables of sample data.

Chicago:
Margin of error for male and female categories varied. Combined always reported 0.2%.

  • 2009 – 1.1% travel to work by bicycle. 1.8% male (MOE: 0.3%), 0.4% female (MOE: 0.1%). Workers over 16: 1,271,744. Permalink.
  • 2008 – 1.0% travel to work by bicycle. 1.5% male (MOE: 0.3%), 0.5% female (MOE: 0.2%). Workers over 16: 1,260,741. Permalink.
  • 2007 – 1.1% travel to work by bicycle. 1.4% male (MOE: 0.3%), 0.7% female (MOE: 0.2%). Workers over 16: 1,230,933. Permalink.
  • 2006 – 0.9% travel to work by bicycle. 1.2% male (MOE: 0.3%), 0.7% female (MOE: 0.2%). Workers over 16: 1,209,122. Permalink.
  • 2005 – 0.7% travel to work by bicycle. 0.9% male (MOE: 0.1%), 0.4% female (MOE: 0.1%). Workers over 16: 1,162,550. Permalink.

United States:
Margin of error happened to be the same for each reported category (combined, male, female).

  • 2009 – 0.6% travel to work by bicycle. 0.8% male, 0.3% female. MOE: 0.1%. Workers over 16: 138,591,804 (decrease). Permalink.
  • 2008 – 0.5% travel to work by bicycle. 0.8% male, 0.3% female. MOE: 0.1%. Workers over 16: 143,995,967. Permalink.
  • 2007 – 0.5% travel to work by bicycle. 0.7% male, 0.2% female. MOE: 0.1%. Workers over 16: 139,259,684. Permalink.
  • 2006 – 0.5% travel to work by bicycle. 0.6% male, 0.2% female. MOE: 0.1%. Workers over 16: 138,265,905. Permalink.
  • 2005 – 0.4% travel to work by bicycle. 0.6% male, 0.2% female. MOE: 0.1%. Workers over 16: 133,091,043. Permalink.

Read the BikePortland article if you want to know that Portland has a higher share of commuters traveling by bicycle than Chicago has.

And what about my block? As I mentioned above, we can only find information at the block group level in the decennial census. I live in Block Group 1 of Census Tract 6009 in Chicago, Illinois. I didn’t live here in 2000, though, the last time the decennial census occurred. Back then, out of 168 workers over 16, 4 of them rode their bikes to work! That equals .024% of the worker population in my block group. Oddly, though, the Census Bureau reported 946 people living in this Block Group. Looking at table P8 (Sex By Age), I see that 674 have at least 16 years of age. 178 people have at least 55 years. Does this mean a lot of people in the Block Group didn’t work at the time of the survey in 2000? I don’t know. Permalink to data.

By far, though, driving alone won as the most popular way to get to work: 71.423% of the worker population.

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About Steven Vance

Enthusiast for urbanism, bicycling as transportation, and open data. Building a bicycle culture in Chicago.
  • http://letsgorideabike.wordpress.com/ Dottie

    Interesting! Thanks for putting this together. I’m disappointed to see that the percentage of women who bike commute decreased in 2008. It’s odd to realize that a female bike commuter like me is so rare – only .2 of the US population and .4 in Chicago. Male bike commuters are almost as rare. Who are all these people driving in Chicago??

  • http://letsgorideabike.wordpress.com Dottie

    Interesting! Thanks for putting this together. I’m disappointed to see that the percentage of women who bike commute decreased in 2008. It’s odd to realize that a female bike commuter like me is so rare – only .2 of the US population and .4 in Chicago. Male bike commuters are almost as rare. Who are all these people driving in Chicago??

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