Surprise! Typical Portland bike commute is shorter than driving

Surprise! Typical Portland bike commute is shorter than driving

Bike traffic on NW Broadway-3

Crossing the Broadway Bridge.

“I’d love to bike to work, but it takes too long.”

Actually, nope. Well, depending on how you look at it.

Census data released last fall shows, for the first time, that the median Portland bike commuter is on the road for 23 minutes before each work shift — one minute less than the median Portland drive-alone commuter.

That means that half of Portland bike commuters reported commutes of 23 minutes or fewer, and half reported longer ones.

This data is new because in all previous Census reports, bike commuters had been lumped in with “motorcycle and other” for questions about travel time. The new data gets more precision by combining survey results from the years 2006 to 2010.

The same data showed that the median carpool to a Portland job took 27 minutes (bigger carpools took as many as 37), the median transit commute 41 minutes, and the median walking commute 12 minutes.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that the typical car or transit commuter could shave time by switching to a bike. The reason Portland bike commutes tend to be faster than car commutes is that the closer you live to work, the more likely you are to bike (or, if you’re really close, to walk).

But in another sense, this factoid means exactly what it seems to. Because as most bike users know, one of the best things about biking is that it makes it easier to live close to work or school or wherever else you want to go frequently. The low-car lifestyles that bikes make possible save money that can be spent on rent, of course. They also reduce the hassle of parking in the central city and the frustration of crawling through congested streets. New research even suggests that when we’re on bikes (or on foot, or in a bus) we perceive the people we see in a city as being nicer and less threatening.

As the chart above shows, biking enables proximity, and proximity enables biking.

This won’t come as a surprise, of course, to those of us who’ve known for years that bikes always move faster than cars — if you count all the time you spent earning the money to drive the car.

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