Last week the Bike Michiana Coalition (BMC) released the results of bicycle traffic counts in the South Bend area showing that bicycle traffic is increasing significantly. This week, those increases are substantiated by data released by the U.S. Census Bureau. The Bureau conducts annual studies, called the American Community Survey (ACS) which shows South Bend bicycle commuting trending upward over the past several years. The above chart shows that South Bend bike commutes have about doubled; meanwhile the rate of commuting by bike has also increased significantly nationwide.
What are the reasons for this extraordinary increase in South Bend? They are too many reasons to list, but some highlights are Mayor Luecke’s 2007 commitment to add 10 miles of bicycle routes per year for the next 5 years, and his appointment of a Bicycle Coordinator; the steady growth of Bike to Work events within the area which got people to thinking about transportation alternatives, Bike the Bend which added tremendous public interest in bicycling, and being designated a Bicycle Friendly Community which lends credibility to the bicycle.
Not only is South Bend a fast growing bike area, but it is also a popular place for people who ride their bikes to work, compared to other cities. About 1.6% of commutes in the city are by bicycle. This is a virtual tie with Muncie, but well below Bloomington’s 3.4% and well above Indiana and the United States as a whole.
ACS data is a small sample, thus it lends itself to a lot of chance for error, but over time is pretty reliable. The survey asks people in the workforce, “How did you usually get to work LAST WEEK?” So students are excluded, and if a person bikes to the bus, the results get fuzzy. A few people are asked each week, so weather and seasons are not a factor.
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This data was extracted from the ACS database and analyzed by Mike Divita, South Bend City Planner; graphs were developed by Paul Taylor.