Bike Commuting Up 25% in Wisconsin

The League of American Bicyclists annual analysis of commuter biking trends is out and it shows mixed results for Wisconsin.

Click image to open PDF and read the full report.

The good news: Wisconsin ranks 14th overall and second only to Minnesota in the Midwest for people commuting to work by bike. The bad news: while commuting by bike has grown here – up 25 percent since 2000 – the Badger State has fallen behind. The number of people commuting by bicycle surged a whopping 46 percent nationally since 2000. So, Wisconsin risks being outpaced by other states.

Our major cities are doing well. Madison ranks first among American cities in the 200,000 to 300,000 population range and eleventh overall with a 5.3 percent bicycle commuter mode share. Meanwhile, Milwaukee ranks ninth among the nation’s 70 largest cities for growth in commuting by bike – up an astounding 203 percent since 2000. Interestingly, the city with the fastest growth in bicycle commuting is Detroit, with a 400 percent increase.

These numbers are probably conservative. They are based on the American Community Survey, an annual survey sent by the Census Bureau to one in 38 American households. The survey question asks how a respondent “usually” got to work in the last week. So, with the survey going out in the spring and spring being what it is for weather in the Midwest, chances are that the percentages would be a lot higher for Wisconsin had the results been taken in, say, July.

The leading city in the nation for bicycle commuting by far is Davis, California where the rate is 23 percent and the average temperature is 74 degrees. Just sayin’.

The only thing really concerning in the report is Wisconsin’s overall growth rate in commuting. While 25 percent is healthy, it’s almost half the growth rate of the nation as a whole. The state legislature’s repeal of our complete streets law and cut in funding for bike infrastructure is not going to help.

3 thoughts on “Bike Commuting Up 25% in Wisconsin

  1. Just an FYI… the ACS is conducted year-round, not just in the spring. Surveys are sent out every month to randomly selected addresses. So in theory the weather impacts should be negated overall for Wisconsin. However, as you point out, there are other issues with the survey questions that likely under count bike commuting. I would think that the under count is consistent across locations though, so the trends in the ACS should still be accurate and comparable across locations.

  2. Shameless self-promotion: If anyone is interested in the trends over the past couple years in Madison, please read this post on my blog. Looking at shorter time frame, the numbers look even less rosy than what the LAB report portrays. This seems to prove the point that it’s relatively easy to get from 0 to 5%, but beyond that a real effort needs to be made to make cycling an all ages-all abilities transportation option.

    • Great stuff Harald! Yep, going up from 5% is harder. I think the solution is separation. Minneapolis did it with trails because they are blessed with lots of abandoned rr corridors. Other cities have done it with REAL bicycle boulevard networks and protected bike lanes.

      It is also very difficult to do in cities like Milwaukee where it is so easy and cheap or free to park and the peak hour traffic jams only last 15 minutes.

      I think the bigger concern in this report is that Wisconsin did not keep up with the rest of the country. Given the importance of cycling to our state economy, we should be investing more. State like Michigan, Minnesota, Indiana and especially recently Colorado, are making significant investments while we are cutting back.

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