Urban Velo

How Americans Get to Work

commutingNPR’s piece “How Americans Get to Work” uses graphs made from data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau,showing how Americans (with jobs–thanks Census folks) get to work. Bicycling is lumped in to the “other” category, along with taxis. Apparently the two groups are both quite marginal.

While events like Bike to Work week aim to show more Americans how easy and enjoyable it can be to hop on your bike and cruise all the way to the office, the overall numbers of dedicated bike commuters remains relatively low. However, the bike in conjunction with trains and buses can often the answer to concerns like “It’s too far;” “I would but it takes too long;” or “There’s a mountain in the way.”

Similarly, the fallacy of these reports is that they typically ask “What is your main mode of transportation to work?” or “What mode of transportation do you travel the farthest distance on?,” which may often be a bus or a train for bike commuters who travel over great distances yet remain committed to bike transportation to a) bridge the gaps between transportation infrastructure, and b) commute everywhere else they don’t need to be in dress clothes for.

Do you use multimodal transportation to get to work? Do you commute by train or bus because you don’t want to feed your bike to the wolves (thieves)? Or perhaps live within walking distance of your job? We’d love to hear about how your bike figures in to your work commute.


About Krista Carlson

A regular contributor to the print edition of Urban Velo, Krista Carlson is a cyclist obsessed with bike polo, baking, pickles, and all things bike-y. She is a native Angeleno and is madly in love with the city and everything that makes it the beautiful, crazy place that it is.

View all posts by Krista Carlson →


  1. Stuart StricklandJuly 23, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    I am a multi-modal commuter in Pittsburgh, living 10 miles into the northern suburbs and working downtown. I’m mainly a transit user, but bike a lot, 1600+ miles/year, no long trips, all just running around town. A common thing for me to do is bike in, then bus the bike home. Evening buses get me about two miles from the house, a very long walk but a quick bike ride. I also have a motorcycle, which I use when time is of the essence, but I’m limited in where I can park it downtown. I have hundreds of case stories I can tell about multi-modal travel, plus a (pair of) blog(s) going back seven years on this topic.

  2. CyclefooJuly 23, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    I live in the Seattle area where my commute is 30 miles one-way. I’ve done a multimodal commute for five years. Last year I did 4,500 miles on the bicycle. King County Metro bus takes me into Seattle in the morning; then I ride ~10 miles across Lake Washington to where I work on the Eastside. On the way home I usually do the full 30-mile ride home. My enthusiasm for that 30-mile ride home typically wanes about January. Between the cold rain, punishing headwinds and the psycho bunnies on the Interurban trail, I give up and just ride to downtown Seattle where I let Metro take me home. Once we get to daylight savings time, I’m back on the big ride home. This commute swallows a big chunk of my life every day but it’s good for my head. That alone makes it worth the time it takes as well as putting up with assholes in cars, shitty weather, and psycho wildlife. Ride your fucking bike!

  3. Richard Masoner (@cyclelicious)July 23, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    You all know me as a bike rider, but I always have to select “transit” on transportation surveys because that covers most of my distance to the office.

    The annual American Community Survey run by the Census includes a bicycle question, incidentally.

  4. IanJuly 23, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    I commute by bike from typically March till early December, I don’t have a proper winter bike.
    Otherwise I walk. Driving accounts for roughly 2-5% of my commute and only due to subzero temperatures or storm.

  5. kristinJuly 24, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    I try to bike. I can never wake up early enough to grab the bus. But, I do work in a not-so-nice area. I’ve had parts stolen off my bike before. So depending on how optimistic I am about humanity each morning I may have the husband drop me off to avoid leaving my bike to the wolves. In the Bay Area, though, I did a combo of bike + CalTrain all the time.

  6. AdamJuly 24, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    I’ve commuted by bike for nearly 4 years now. 2 of them have been in Atlanta. My daily route’s 20 miles roundtrip, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Despite Atlanta being the new definition of urbal sprawl, biking is THE best way to get around town.

  7. greg..July 24, 2013 at 10:16 pm

    After commuting for the past 5 years here in Austin,and recently, to and from work,I just don’t want to give it up.It makes the job less hellish.

    The irony,for me,is I have lost out on some work($$) because I only choose to bike.At times I have to drive cars for my job,it’s usually a short distance. But that’s all it takes.

    I feel the craziness and stress of all the traffic and I just can’t do it anymore. Saving for a new Cross Bike.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


City Reports