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Bike On!

No bus or subway?  No worries!  A study conducted by the Accessibility Observatory at the University of Minnesota suggests cities can improve access to jobs simply by investing in cycling infrastructure.  The report examined data from the 50 largest metro areas, and, according to Accessibility Observatory director Andrew Owen, “…biking infrastructure investments are  much more cost-effective at providing access to jobs than infrastructure investments to
support automobiles.”

While only about 0.6% of commuters cycle it, the number of bike commuters has increased by 60% since 2000, due in part to health benefits, lower cost, and a growing emphasis on greener options. 

According to the report, there are four basic types of commuters:  those who would never bike no matter how safe the route; those who are interested but unwilling to bike unless there are separated lanes; enthusiasts who are willing to tolerate busy traffic conditions if there is a designated bike lane; and the fearless cyclist willing to bike regardless of traffic or inadequate infrastructure.

Over 80% of cyclists and those willing to try biking to work require protected bike lanes and access to off-street paths, so it makes sense for cities to create that level of infrastructure.

In 2017, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Denver, D.C., Portland (OR), Minneapolis, Seattle, and San Jose (CA) were rated the top ten metro areas for job accessibility by bike.  The bottom ten cities – including Dallas, Charlotte, and Virginia Beach – were almost all in the south.  

In the west, 1.1% of commuters cycle to work, while in the south the percentage was just 0.3%.

In Portland, the city used long-term savings as a rationale for improving biking infrastructure estimating that residents could save between $388 and $594 million in individual health care costs by the year 2040.  As a result, 6.1% of Portlanders bike to work, up from 1.8% in 2000. 

Owen concluded the findings “…give policy makers and planners more options to improve transportation performance goals related to congestion, reliability and sustainability, as well as increased access to jobs.”

Excerpted from “Cities Invested in Bicycling Infrastructure  Provide Better Access to Jobs,” Emma Coleman,   

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