TPB News

As Bike Use Grows in the Region, Safety is All the More Important

May 27, 2013

The number of bicycle commuters in the Washington region is growing, as indicated by the success of the thirteenth annual Bike to Work Day and by a recent analysis of Census data by the Transportation Planning Board.

Participation in Bike to Work Day continues to increase. When the program first launched in 2000, several hundred cyclists participated. This year, the number exceeded 14,500 participants, a 15% growth in participation from the previous year, and a participation record.

As part of an ongoing effort to track changes in regional commute patterns, the Transportation Planning Board recently analyzed Census data from the American Community Survey. The analysis showed that even though most workers in the area continue to commute to work via automobile, more people in the area are choosing to commute by transit and by bicycle.

The share of commuters in the region that bike to work increased from 0.3% in 2000 to 0.7% in 2011, representing about 11,000 new bike commuters. The District of Columbia contributed the most to this regional gain. In 2000, only 1.4% of commuters used bicycles to get to work in DC, and by 2011 that number had increased to 3.5%.

Most of these new DC bicycle commuters both live and work within the District. In fact, across the region, the largest gains in new bicycle commute trips occur in areas that feature a mix of residences and jobs.

Outside the District, a significant increase in bicycle commuting was also seen for commuters that live in Arlington, Alexandria, and Montgomery County. For other jurisdictions, the numbers are still too small to permit any meaningful assessment of changes over time.

As the number of cyclists in the region continues to grow and new cyclists join their more experienced colleagues, there is an increased chance of accidents. There are a number of resources in the region available to bicyclists and motorists to help increase awareness about street safety.

The two groups that organize Bike to Work Day, Commuter Connections and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA), each offer resources that promote bicycle safety. Commuter Connections has a Bicycling to Work guide, and WABA offers safety training for bicyclists.

The Transportation Planning Board also sponsors “Street Smart,” a public safety campaign, held annually since 2002, that reminds motorist, cyclists, and pedestrians about the region’s traffic laws and ways to avoid collisions. Street Smart is a collaboration between 22 jurisdictions in the region. The next campaign is scheduled to begin in November 2013.

The growing number of bicycle commuters in the region marks an encouraging shift in how people are getting to work, but requires an increased awareness about bicycle safety that is being advocated by resource materials and public awareness campaigns.

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