Talkin' 'bout a revolution

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .


Little did I know in 1989 when I moved to the ‘burgh that in the next 21 years I would witness possibly the most dramatic lifestyle shift in this city’s history.

When I arrived in October that year — the weekend that the Bay Area earthquake rocked the World Series — there was no good coffee, no sushi, no Thai (correct me if I missed something) or Vietnamese cuisine.

No one with influence was talking about above-ground solutions to stormwater runoff. The non-industrial value of the rivers as public policy was several years away. Bike lanes? Bike racks? Whaaa? Had you seen a guy riding a bike dressed for work, your first reaction might have been of amusement.

Whell! Just look at us now. (Photo, from BikePGH, is of cyclists on the new Millvale trail.)

BikePGH has shot me a link to the American Community Survey for 2009 and the data crunched city by city by the League of American Bicyclists. The commuting trend is where Pittsburgh is shining.

BikePGH reports that Pittsburgh jumped 206 percent in bike commuting since 2000 – the fourth biggest increase in the nation — and this happened largely before the city’s bike parking law and other voluntary on-street accommodations.

We’re second behind Boston when you take walking and cycling into account. Yes, 'burgh buddies, 13 percent of us do not burn fossil fuels getting to and from work.

To read more and see all the charts, click here.

“There is clearly a change in mind-set among commuters,” BikePGH reports, “and any veteran Pittsburgh cyclist will tell you that, in general, drivers’ attitudes have changed since then as well. What the overall data also shows is that cities that had moderate numbers to begin with, saw large gains this past decade.”

The five cities that increased their bicycle commuting the most are Atlanta by 244%, Portland by 230%, Cincinnati by 212%, Pittsburgh by 206% and Tulsa by 203%. (A special congratulations to T-Town, a former haunt of mine.)

The data over 10 years also show that the percentage of Pittsburgh workers who drove alone fell by 2% and that the number of commuters on foot jumped by 27%.

The American Community Survey has a sample size of about 3 million addresses that it plies every year to learn about trends through questionnaires and interviews. There are limitations to the survey, and you can read more about those, too, at the link above.

Yeah yeah, there are limitations to the survey. There are limitations to everything. Pittsburghers, be proud. Be very proud.

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