One of the things data nerds look forward to each year is the release of Census data. While a full census takes place once a decade, the American Community Survey is collecting data every year and using that data to extrapolate the entire population’s demographics. It may seem a little sketch to collect 1,000 surveys (they collect more than that) and project those to reflect the whole community, but the way they use the statistics available to them, and by collecting a big enough sample size to minimize the margin of error, they’re very good at what they do and their estimates reflect reality quite nicely.
The part about this we’re interested here is the commuting data. While people who commute by bike do not make up the number of people who ride a bike regularly, they are a subset and it is the most consistently accurate and available data we have to gauge bicycling activity. I’ve produced a Venn Diagram to illustrate how bike commuters make up a subset of people who bike:
Bicycling as a commute option in Phoenix is still tragically low. In 2006 0.62% of commuters did so by bicycle. In 2011 that number rose to 0.76%, but dropped slightly with the new 2012 data to 0.73%. Carpool rates have been dropping, going from 15.5% in 2006 to 11.4% in 2012, which has correlated with an increase of people who drove to work alone from 72.7% to 75.9%.
This isn’t great news, but it’s a good baseline to watch. Many good things are happening right now including the construction of residential units in the urban core, housing prices are rising enough where people stuck paying an underwater mortgage can move to a more bike-friendly area, and Phoenix is beginning to embrace walking and cycling as viable modes of transportation in their infrastructure planning and spending. Good things are happening in the city that will encourage active transportation, and I’m excited to watch these numbers go up every year.