Posted by Michael Andersen (Contributor) on April 15th, 2014 at 4:49 pm
Update 4/17: City Clock has now updated its post using a revised methodology.
We don’t usually devote much space to the endless lists ranking Portland among the best this or that for biking, and with good reason — most of them aren’t worth much. One list that was published yesterday has some noteworthy tidbits, but wouldn’t have been worth mentioning here if it hadn’t hornswaggled us at first.
An article on cityclock.org titled “Top 10 cycling communities in America” (later changed to “Top 12 cycling areas”) claimed that Census commute data showed central Eugene to be the best neighborhood in the country for biking, and that Portland’s Hosford-Abernethy — Hawthorne to Powell, 29th to the Willamette, including Ladd’s Addition — ranked 10th.
Both of these are very good places to ride bikes, and biking to work is more popular in those neighborhoods than elsewhere in each city. But beyond that, the methodology the site used doesn’t really stand up.
According to an email from City Clock writer Justin Swan, who lives in Canada, he assembled the list by looking up the Census tracts with the most bike commuters in the cities that topped Bicycling Magazine’s well-known and semi-arbitrary list. (One due to be updated any day now, by the way.)
It was a worthwhile exercise as Census dives go, intended to check whether a few extremely bike-friendly neighborhoods have been “propping up the reputations” of the country’s top cities. But it’s not, by any standard we’d use at BikePortland, a list of the country’s best neighborhoods for biking. Making matters worse, it’s possible that Swan lumped taxi commutes in with bike commutes, dramatically inflating the supposed bike-commute rates for rich parts of Manhattan.
Here’s what actually seems to be true: according to the Census’ 2008-2012 American Community Survey, the Hosford-Abernethy area of inner Southeast Portland has the highest bike-commute rate in the City of Portland: about 20 percent. And central Eugene has an even higher-bike commute rate: about 30 percent.
Thanks to the several commenters (see below) who expressed skepticism of this ranking after I posted it late Monday afternoon. I should have looked deeper at this data before sharing it here. We try not to publish information that’s unreliable, but when we err, corrections and rebuttals are always welcome.