Bike-to-work up 50 percent in 2007

Census estimate puts Minneapolis second to Portland, Ore.

If you started pedaling to work last year, you’re not alone.

The number of Minneapolis workers who commute by bicycle jumped 49 percent in 2007, according to a city report highlighting recently released U.S. Census Bureau estimates. About 7,200 city residents biked to work in 2007, up from about 4,840 in 2006.

Maybe those reports of Midtown Greenway traffic jams weren’t exaggerated.

Among the nation’s 50 largest cities, Minneapolis trails only Portland, Ore., in the percentage of people who bike to work, the Census Bureau reported. About 3.8 percent of commuters rode bicycles in Minneapolis, compared to 3.9 percent in Portland.

Non-Motorized Transportation Pilot Program Coordinator Shawn Murphy said bicycle riding was the one transportation mode that had increased almost every year since 1990 in surveys of Minneapolis residents.

“It’s something that people are consistently turning to,” Murphy said.

Minneapolis also ranked high in other forms of green commuting.

Census data indicated about 12,000 people, or 6.4 percent of residents, walked to work last year, putting Minneapolis 9th among the 50 largest cities. Minneapolis ranked 10th in public transportation ridership with more than 25,000 commuters, or about 13.4 percent of residents, riding a bus or light rail train to work.

By comparison, the city ranked 40th for the number of people who drove alone to work.

The commuting estimates have a margin of error of plus or minus 0.8 percent. The data was gathered from long-form Census Bureau surveys completed by about 5,050 city residents in 2007.

Murphy said the city was responding to the increase in bike commuting by adding miles to its system of bikeways. With 123 miles of bikeways existing, Minneapolis already has more bikeways per square mile than even Portland, he said.

That number will increase by almost 40 percent in coming years as the city adds 45 miles of new bikeways in 2009 and 2010, he said.

“A lot of this is really coming from the grass roots level,” Shawn said of the push for bikeway expansion. “People really want to do this, and in a sense we’re really catching up to them. We’re responding to the needs of people.”