I had this conversation last night with a friend from Chicago. Enjoy. Data is from the American Community Survey, Table S0801. If you were to rate how much we bike, from a “typical Chicagoan’s” point of view, he would be “eccentric” and I would be “psychotic.”

[flickr]photo:5509422752[/flickr]

Photo by Joshua Koonce.

Me
A friend of mine in Europe asked for bicycle commuting statistics for Chicago.
Man, the numbers were sad.

Friend
No shit.

Me
if we look at the 3-year estimates for work trips, then it’s
-2005-2007: 0.9%
-2006-2008: 1.0
-2007-2009: 1.1

Friend
Chicago is also a gigantic, sprawling modern city of hundreds of square miles and wide roads designed for masses of cars.

Me
And if we look at the 1-year estimates, which Matt argued on my blog are useless, it’s
-2005: 0.7%
-2006: 0.9
-2007: 1.1
-2008: 1.0
-2009: 1.1
The 3-year estimate has a MOE of ±0.1 so essentially, it could mean no change from year to year.
And the 1-year estimate has a MOE of ±0.2, so again, it could mean no change from year to year
UGH

Friend
Comparatively, old European cities don’t have a lot of bandwidth for autos and have density where people take short trips.
That’s still probably two or three times the distance people in Copenhagen or Cambridge or Amsterdam.

Me
So let’s say 50% of trips are 5 miles or less, and 25% of trips are 2.5 miles or less.
Yet 1% of all trips are taken by bike
If we could just DOUBLE that, it would be a miracle
The Bike 2015 Plan’s goal is to have 5% of all trips under 5 miles by bike.

Friend
That’s an ambitious goal.

Me
We don’t have any baseline data to show how many trips under 5 miles in 2006, at the inception of the Bike 2015 Plan, are by bike. In the end, we’ll never know if our ambitious goal was attained!