The Census Bureau has been gathering data on how people get to work, and how long it takes them to get there. The Census Explorer tool is the fastest and easiest way to get at this data. Another tool, American Factfinder, provides a much greater level of detail, but one of the advantages of Census Explorer is that it gives you a quick visual representation of the data, overlaid on a map.
Here's how to use it to get information on the percentage of people who commute to work by bicycle in your area. I'm using metro Atlanta as my target, with the county as my unit of geography.
- Visit Census Explorer
- Select "Go to Census Explorer: Commuting Edition"
- In the dropdown box "Select a Measure" choose "Bicycle"
- In the dropdown box "Show by" select "County". You'll get much finer grained detail by selecting "Census Tract", but save that for a more detailed examination later.
- Use your mouse and the "+" and "-" icons on the upper right of the map to zoom in on the geographic area you're interested in.
I found a number of interesting things by exploring the map, other than the obvious fact that bicycle commuting is a very small percentage of overall commuting. One is that Chattahoochee, Baldwin, Appling, and Clarke counties have the highest per capita percentage of bike commuters among Georgia counties. It's obvious to me why that is true in Clarke County (the University of Georgia dominates the county, and college towns tend to have more cycling than other areas). I'm not certain why the percentage is higher in those other counties, but it would be worth using American Factfinder to explore in more detail The percentage is still small, but it reached or exceeded the one percentage mark in all these counties.
Selecting Census Tract under the "Show by" pulldown gives much more useful results. A quick look shows that Clayton County in metro Atlanta has the census tracts with the highest levels of bicycle commuting, topping 10%.
The small percentages may seem demoralizing to advocates of cycling as a means of practical transportation. But in order to increase commuting by bicycle it's necessary to know what factors lead to higher or lower numbers, and those numbers also need to be regularly tracked. Both Census Explorer and American Factfinder should be important tools for advocates of bicycle commuting.