Posted by Michael Andersen (News Editor) on November 20th, 2013 at 10:04 am
(Photo by Gene Bisbee.)
Here’s a secret you won’t hear often: The United States has many cities where biking is far more popular than in Portland.
Two of them are just a two-day bike trip away.
They’re called college towns. And it’s time for urban planners to stop ignoring how well they work and start learning from them.
Here’s a list of U.S. cities of 65,000 or more residents in which workers are likelier to commute by bike than Portlanders are:
- Davis, Calif. – 19.1% of workers commute by bike
- Boulder, Colo. – 12.1%
- Palo Alto, Calif. – 9.5%
- Eugene, Ore. – 8.7%
- Cambridge, Mass – 8.5%
- Fort Collins, Colo. – 7.9%
- Berkeley, Calif. – 7.6%
- Santa Barbara, Calif. – 6.9%
- Madison, Wisc. – 6.3%
- Missoula, Mont. – 6.2%
Portland’s estimate, meanwhile, was at 6 percent for 2012, just ahead of Gainsville, Fla. Corvallis, Ore., which is home to Oregon State University and a bike commute mode share just short of 11 percent, would rank third nationally if it were large enough to make the 65,000 population cut.
The data comes from the U.S. Census, and it’s part of a report published yesterday by the League of American Bicyclists. The numbers don’t include commuting to school. Census estimates measure work commutes only, though these totals do include students who also work day or night jobs and the thousands of people that the local universities employ.
Here’s why colleges are terrific at encouraging biking, and what Portland and other cities should be learning from them:
(Photo by Let Ideas Compete)
You know those beautiful live-work areas that urban planners dream about and work endlessly to encourage, using sledgehammer-sized binders of regulation? Those Greenwich Village-style four-story walkups romanticized by Jane Jacobs in the early 1960s? That describes most traditional college campuses. The existence of these tightly planned communities, which engineeer biking and walking to be pleasant, safe and popular, explains why almost every university in the country also has a walkable commercial neighborhood within a few blocks of campus that becomes an attraction for the whole city. In other words, low-car life is contagious.
For cities, this means that one highly successful low-car neighborhood or development will beget another.