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2011 Census Data: Pittsburgh a Top 5 Biking and Walking City

Photo by flickr user pghmtb

Pittsburgh ranks 5th in “biking and walking” mode share, 7th in biking, walking, and transit combined

On the heels of the announcement that the 2014 Pro Walk/Pro Bike Conference will be held in Pittsburgh, the US Census just posted their American Community Survey (ACS) transportation stats for 2011.

Pittsburgh maintained our top-five standing this year as 5th highest level of commuting by bike and by foot in the nation (of the largest 60 cities). Only Boston, Washington DC, San Francisco, and Seattle have a larger biking and walking mode share.

Also, with an 18 percent of our workers using transit, Pittsburgh still has the 8th highest percentage of transit commuters in the country.

If you add up all of the categories considered “active transportation,” walking + biking + transit, Pittsburgh still places in the top 10 cities in the nation, coming in at a respectable 7th (see table below).

We dropped a few places in the standings in the bike commuter category from 13th to 16th place.  We believe this is most likely due to other cities making much larger strides in bike infrastructure that have proven to result in an increased percentage of everyday bike commuters. Although many miles of bike lanes and sharrows were installed in 2012, you may remember that there were zero miles of bike lanes installed in 2011, with only a couple of miles of new sharrows installed in November of 2011. Bikeway networks, especially of the physically separated variety greatly increase the percentage of bicyclists in a city.

For comparison’s sake, Pittsburgh’s numbers in 2006 were as follows:

  • 18th place for bike commuters
  • Biking: 0.8
  • Walking: 12.4
  • Transit: 21.1
  • Drove Alone: 53.1
  • No car available: 14.7

We’ve been reporting about the ACS data for the past five years (2006) (2007) (2008) (2009) (2010).

In this series, we’re specifically looking to find out “what is the primary way that Pittsburgh residents get to their job (wherever that may be)?” And of course, because we love cities, not to mention a friendly competition, we’ve included the largest 60 cities in our analysis. This is not a sample of “how many Pittsburghers ride bikes.” For instance, if you take the bus to your job, but ride a bicycle the rest of the time, you are counted as “transit.” Likewise if you ride a bicycle 3 days and drive 2 days, you are counted as “bicycle.” And if you have no job, are under 16, or are a student, well you’re just not counted. Although this is most likely the best data that we have available on this subject, please see the caveats at the end of this post regarding the ACS data.

Primary means of commuting to work


Click on the tabs at the bottom of the chart to toggle between modes

Top 20 Car-Free Commuting Cities

Click on the tabs at the bottom of the chart to toggle between modes

What is the American Community Survey?

The American Community Survey is the country’s largest household survey, reporting its findings every year.  With a sample size of about 3 million addresses, this is only an estimate, but is by far the best tool that we have understanding trends in the United States.  The survey uses questionnaires and interviews to gather information on demographic, economic, and housing characteristics.

ACS limitations, notes, and cautions

  • The ACS asks only about commuting. It does not tell us about bicycling for non-work purposes.
  • Results are based on a survey of a sample of the population. Surveys take place throughout the year. The journey to work question asks respondents about the previous week.
  • The journey to work question asks about the primary mode of transportation to work. The wording of the question undercounts the actual amount of bike commuting that occurs. It does not count people who rode once or twice a week or people who bike to transit (if the transit leg is longer than the bike leg).
  • Since the ACS is a survey of a sample, the results are estimates. The ACS releases a margin of error along with the estimate. Users can add and subtract the margin of error value from the estimate to find the top and bottom of the range within which the ACS is 90 percent confident in their estimate lies. Margins of error are reported on with the data on the ACS site.
  • Changes among years may not be statistically significant.
  • The numbers reported here are for the “principal city,” not the larger Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA).

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3 Responses to “2011 Census Data: Pittsburgh a Top 5 Biking and Walking City”

  1. rachel_ding says:

    Just read this again today. Awesome!

  2. [...] resulted in an 80 percent growth in bike commuting since 2000. We also looked at places like Pittsburgh, Pa., which has seen a greater than 200 percent growth in that same [...]

  3. [...] We may not be Manhattan… but Pittsburgh is one of the easier places in the country to get around without a car. Bike Pittsburgh | 2011 Census Data: Pittsburgh a Top 5 Biking and Walking City [...]

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