American Community Survey: Bicycling and Walking to Work 2008-2012

The U.S. Census Bureau press released the 2008-2012 “Modes Less Traveled – Bicycling and Walking to Work in the United States” report. The findings are based on responses to The American Community Survey for 2008-2012. The report found that the number of workers who commute by bicycle increased from 488,000 in 2000 to 786,000, an increase of about 60 percent, making bicycling the transportation mode with the largest percentage increase in traveling to work. The average commuter time for bicyclists was 19.3 minutes.[1] This large increase in commuter bicyclists demonstrates the need for increased bicycling infrastructure across the nation.

While bicyclists comprise only 0.6 percent of all commuters, some of the largest cities have doubled their bicycling commuter percentages. Portland, Oregon, now 6.1 percent, and Minneapolis, Minnesota, now 4.1 percent, more than doubled the percentage of bicyclists commuting to and from work. Neighboring New Jersey cities, Philadelphia and New York City, ranked in the top 10 cities for walking and bicycling percentages.[2] The region has a reputation for having bicycling and walking populations, and New Jersey should continue to make sure that they too are providing infrastructure that attracts these populations.

Commuter bicyclist
Commuter cyclist riding along New Street in New Brunswick.

The report also looked at pedestrian commuters. The northeast had the highest rate of walking to work, 4.7 percent, and the west had the highest percentage of bicycling to work, 1.1 percent.  The average commuter time for walkers is 11.5 minutes, whereas the average commuting time for all other workers (excluding bicyclists and those who do not work at home) was about 25.9 minutes. Overall, on average, bicyclists and walking commuters had lower commuting times than other modes of commuting.

The report also stated that workers between the ages of 16 to 24 had the highest rates of walking to work, 6.8 percent. This further explains why “college towns” showed very high rates of walking to work. In Ithaca, NY and Athens, OH, about 40 percent of workers walked to work. The survey also stated that most educated workers, those with a graduate or professional degree, are more likely to commute to work by bicycle. Approximately, 35.4 percent of New Jersey residents 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree or higher which is about 6.0 percent higher than the Nation’s average.[3] The state has a large population that would fit into this category and should increase pedestrian and bicycling options to accommodate these populations.

The survey also showed that minority groups were more likely to walk to and from work. Whites had the lowest percentage of walking among Hispanic, African American, Asian, and those who classify themselves as some other race.[4]As one of the most diverse states in the Nation, New Jersey should continue providing infrastructure that accommodates its constituent’s needs. With foreign born residents populating roughly 18.0 percent of the state, and minorities comprising a greater amount of the walking commuting population, New Jersey should continue developing Complete Street infrastructure to ensure all residents are provided adequate commuting options. With these growing populations, New Jersey’s expansion in pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure will be a worthwhile investment, creating vitality throughout the state.

Providing safe infrastructure encourages pedestrian and bicycling usage.

According to the survey, in New Jersey, between .40 to .59 percent of workers bicycle to work and 3.0 to 3.9 percentage of workers walk to work. These percentages are the same for neighboring states, New York and Pennsylvania (with the exception of walking in NY which is higher because of New York City) which have large, dense cities which foster environments for alternative modes of commuting. These cities have implemented several strategies to encourage biking and walking within their cities. Strategies to increase bicycling and walking across the United States include hosting cycling and walking commuting events, increasing bicycle parking and changing facilities, providing education programs, incorporating street calming devices in design, and providing public bike systems.[5]

New Jersey municipalities have played a key role in promoting bicycling and walking within their communities through a series of outreach and policy strategies. NJDOT adopted a complete streets policy in 2009 to promote safe transportation options for all modes: driving, walking, and bicycling. Since this adoption, 6 counties have adopted policies and more than 50 municipalities have passed Complete Street Policies. New Jersey has several strategies in place to increase walking and bicycling commuters:

– The NJ DOT Complete Streets Policy was one of the first ones in the nation and serves to create safe travel routes for all modes of transportation through planning, design, and maintenance of future and existing sidewalks, bike paths, and road systems. Through a well-planned, design based system, New Jersey hopes to foster safe interaction between pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists.[6]

– Within the state there are eight Transportation Management Associations (TMAs) which serve to create partnerships between businesses, local government, and commuters. Not only do they create connections across silos, they also serve as a way for local businesses, governments, and other transportation groups to communicate their interests to the greater state government.[7]

– The NJ Ambassadors in Motion (NJAIM) serves as a public outreach group that provides bicycle training and safety to communities throughout the state. They not only provide classes to bicyclists and pedestrians, but also to other community groups in order to promote a safe environment for all modes of transportation.[8]

– The “Stop and Stay Stopped” Law, passed in April 2010, requires motorists to stop for pedestrians crossing in marked crosswalks. This law not only protects pedestrians, but allows for quicker travel along a commute or general stroll making walking a more desirable form of transportation.[9]

As the densest state in the United States, New Jersey has implemented several policies that promote safe travel for all modes of transportation. NJDOT has continually expressed interest and initiative in creating a safe commuter environment through the above policies and strategies. These strategies are part of a larger goal of making New Jersey a safer, healthier community.

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