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Bike commuting keeps growing in D.C.

Bike lanes in D.C. (Gerald Martineau/The Washington Post)
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More people are riding to work in the District.

New Census Bureau data suggest that 4.5  percent of D.C. working residents — about 15,000 people — commuted by bicycle in 2013. The number has more than doubled in five years.

The data released last month also show an important shift in the city’s commuting patterns:  Not only are more people getting to work on two wheels, but more are also walking, and for the first time (at least in recent history), the share of D.C. residents who take public transportation to work is greater than the share of residents who drive to work.

D.C. transportation officials view the data as an important step toward achieving the city’s vision to become more sustainable, less dependent on cars and more open to transit, walking and biking.  The growing love of bicycling is viewed as a validation to the city’s investment in bike facilities, including more than 50 miles of bike lanes in recent years.

Bike commuting has been an upward trend in the District for years.  Last year’s share of bike commuting, at 4.5 percent, reflects an increase over 2012, when 4.1 percent of D.C. residents commuted by bike.  And the number of bike commuters has more than doubled since 2009, when about 6,300 District residents (or about 2.2 percent of the city’s population) said they used bikes to commute.  In 2000, only 1.2 percent of city residents commuted by bike.

Sam Zimbabwe, associate director for policy and planning at the D.C. Department of Transportation, said the city’s bike lanes, the growth of the Capital Bikeshare system and investments in other bike facilities have contributed to the city’s new love of bicycling.  Capital Bikeshare, which has expanded exponentially over the past four years, has made bikes more accessible to residents, Zimbabwe said.

The city also continues to build on a network of bike lanes, with many of them in downtown. DDOT officials said last month that they had installed 7.5 miles of bike lanes this year, and the agency is on pace to break the District’s previous record for bike lane installation of just over 8 miles.

Although the share of public transit users has not changed much over the past years, the new data show that more District residents now commute by public transit than car.  According to the data, 38.5 percent of D.C. residents commuted to work by transit last year, compared to 37.6 percent who drove.

The number of people walking to work is also up to 13.6 percent, compared to 12 percent in 2012.