US Census: Portland bike commuting hits lowest rate in 12 years

Riding conditions on 122nd Avenue in the Gateway District.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The latest numbers from the U.S. Census bureau estimate that the number of people who bike to work in Portland is down to 5.3%. That number is down from 6.3% in 2017 and it’s the lowest we’ve seen since 2007. Portland’s bike to work number peaked at 7.2% in 2014.

Based on American Community Survey (ACS) 1-Year Estimates data, there were a total of 19,553 Portland residents who primarily use a bicycle for work trips. That’s out of 366,445 total workers. This is the first time Portland has dipped under 20,000 bike users since 2013. Put another way, our city has added 54,857 new commuters in the past five years, but the number of people riding a bike has gone up by only 1,216. In that same time period (2013 through 2018), the number of Portland commuters that drive alone in a car has gone up by 35,425 people. An estimated 59% of Portlanders drive alone to work.

While Portland dipped a point, San Francisco (at 4.2%) and Seattle (3.9%) gained one. Our “Best Bike City” nemesis Minneapolis is down to 3.4% bike commute mode share, that’s a half-point lower than 2017 and down from a peak of 5% in 2015. Keep in mind these numbers are only estimates and the data only reflects trips to work (by people who have jobs). The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that commute trips account for less than one-fifth of all trips taken.


These numbers should not be a surprise. Earlier this month we reported on Portland’s 2030 Bike Plan progress report. Catie Gould with BikeLoudPDX said the report showed “an extremely discouraging lack of progress” that should “raise an alarm bell.”

Here a look at how Portland’s bike commute rate compares to other cities since 1990:

(Chart: Michael Andersen)

Transit use in Portland dipped slightly from 12.6% in 2017 to 12% last year. The data shows another surge in the number of people who work from home. That number is up one percentage point to 9.6% (it was 7.1% in 2013). The amount of people who walk to work stayed relatively flat at 5.6% of the total.

Portland has proudly led the nation in big city bike commute mode share for many years; but our lead is shrinking. And the biking number is only part of the story. In Seattle, where they’ve “blown past Portland in transportation moxie” according to an article in The Oregonian last year, drive-alone trips are down to less than half the total (46.2%), transit use notched up significantly (from 23% to 24%) and walking was up over two percentage points (12.6%).

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and

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