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Portland Business Alliance reports sharp increase in downtown bike commuters

Posted by on October 4th, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Getting to work by bike hit double-digits for the first time ever in 2009, according to a survey by the Portland Business Alliance.
(Graph: 2009 Downtown Business Census & Survey, Portland Business Alliance)

Numbers released as part of the Portland Business Alliance’s 2009 Downtown Business Census & Survey show an unprecedented uptick in the number of people who commute to jobs downtown by bike. According to the survey (which was released back in July) 10% of downtown employees used a bike to get to work in 2009 — up significantly from 6% in 2008 and the largest year-to-year increase since 2001 (the first year the survey was taken).

MAX/Bus was the most popular form of transportation, garnering 44% of the tally, while 36% of downtown employees said they drive alone.

The survey focused on the businesses, organizations and government agencies located within the I-5/I-405 loop where some 83,387 people are employed. In addition to asking how employees get to work, the survey seeks to understand the mood of the downtown business climate.

Our friends at the City of Portland Transportation Options Division turned the commute mode data into graphs to help give us a visual look at how bicycling for downtown employees has taken off in the past nine years…

The graph below shows that the percentage of people biking is increasing at a far higher rate than any other mode. Drive-alone and transit trips are flat while walking and carpooling are down…

The graph below compares the percentage of people who drive alone (in red) compared to other, more “environmentally friendly” modes (in green)…

You can download the survey as a PDF here.

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  • Spiffy October 4, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    good news…

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  • Rebecca October 4, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    If you build it, they will come…

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  • Scott October 4, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    Walking is actually increasing over the past nine years, as you can see from the dark blue line’s trend, but it did see a dip from ’08 to ’09.

    Carpooling, driving alone, and transit are relatively flat over the life of the survey.

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  • Scott October 4, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    Now to correct myself: Driving alone is actually decreasing…

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  • David October 4, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    It’s also worth pointing out that even the small relative decline in SOV trips (and from the looks of the graph, a shift to bike and transit trips) actually represents a lot of new bike and transit trips because drive alone trips, on the whole, are such a large share of total trips into the CBD. So yay!

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  • voline October 4, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    if the trends continue, this is very good news.

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  • voline October 4, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    In 2008 the average price of gasoline hit historic highs. It was $4.25 per gallon in Oregon that September. That coincides with a peak in car-pooling and the beginning of the current upward trend in bicycling.

    It seems that after prices began to decline after fewer people began to car-pool. There were no more car-poolers in 2009 than 2008 (change ≈ 0). But the trend toward bike commuting continued to accelerate.

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  • q`Tzal October 4, 2010 at 7:24 pm

    Tomorrow’s headline today:
    “2009 decrease in sales or profit in Downtown Portland businesses can now officially be blamed on bikes.

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  • CXS October 4, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    This should put to bed questions and accusations about the merit of transit investment as it relates to bicycling.

    It won’t, sadly. But it should.

    Over and over the data and the anecdotal experience show that when people are provided quality alternatives to the SOV, they will choose choice. There isn’t a high bike mode split city in the world that doesn’t offer a huge range (compared to most US cities) of transportation modal alternatives. People need choice. Downtown Portland does that well and people respond in kind.

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  • Lance P. October 5, 2010 at 11:33 am

    CXS. I completely agree. People are much more willing to bike to work if they they have good transit as a backup (flat tire…). I’m very excited to see if the Lloyd district will start to follow this trend when the new streetcar is completed. I’m very hopeful that this trend will spill over to the east side.

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  • ecohuman October 7, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    The report indicates that the margin of error (based on what, it doesn’t say) is +/- 3%. That means it’s a wash.

    In other words, the survey does *not* show “show an unprecedented uptick in the number of people who commute to jobs downtown by bike”, because it doesn’t indicate (or survey) all people working downtown–it only surveyed “the owners of businesses, organizations, and government agencies”.

    The beauty of the report is that it can be used to justify several different ideologies. Exccept for the one claiming business is good, that is; downtown has lost several thousand jobs in the past decade, descpite a growth in population. And the trend continues.

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