Pittsburgh comes in 8th among major cities in the percentage of commutes people take to work by walking, bicycling or mass transit. A study at the University of Oklahoma’s Institute for Quality Communities is cited in a report by Emily Badger in Atlantic Cities today ranking cities by commuter choices.
New York, Chicago and Miami lead their respective regions.
There is no category for western cities in this report, which is odd since San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Minneapolis and Honolulu are pretty high in the rankings. In fact, in a separate chart that shows the percentage of trips by bicycle, Portland has shot way past every other city since 2000.
The data come from the 2012 American Community Survey and deal only with commuting. It would be interesting for a study to delve deeper into how people get around otherwise, either for short trips to the store or by combining a long walk or bike outing with a chore or errand.
On a recent visit to New York, a friend remarked on the fact that, while we saw lots of overweight people, the percentages — based on sheer numbers of people on the streets — were quite low compared to Pittsburgh, where the number of overweight and morbidly obese people is just as remarkable.
Considering the population of New York compared to Pittsburgh and the greater options for transit and safe bicycling, it's no wonder that New Yorkers represent a trimmer day in America.
On our visit, in one day, we walked about 12 miles, noodling around the Lower East Side, the East Village and then opting to walk to a gallery in Chelsea and to walk back to the Lower East Side. It was a slog at the end, but being on the streets is the whole point of a visit there.
Oklahoma City, by contrast, is a city built for cars and it comes in last. Unlike New York, Pittsburgh and other older cities, its urbanization was built on the use of petroleum.
By their nature, cities whose design caters to cars more than to other modes seem less interesting. But they are shortchanged in that way because when we drive, we fail to see the details, the nooks and subtleties that make us interested in places.
Chart courtesy of the University of Oklahoma Institute for Quality Communities.