More Houstonians than before are riding their bikes to work, though in absolute terms it’s still a pretty small number.
Figures from the League of American Bicyclists show a 62 percent increase in the number of Houston residents who commute by bicycle.
City of Houston Bicyclist-Pedestrian Coordinator Dan Raine says some cyclists use bike lanes and trails to get to their jobs. Others bike part of the way, and make the rest of the trip by bus. They can attach their bike to a rack on the front grill. If it’s a park-and-ride bus, they can stow it in the luggage compartment.
“I’ve known some people that actually ended up selling their cars and going to a one-car family. People lose weight. They find that they just have a little less stress in their life, because they’re able to get out there and get the exercise that they need.”
The city of Houston has around 460 miles of bikeways. There are trails that meander along scenic bayous. Others run along rail beds that pass through historic neighborhoods.
But Raine says the city needs more than just trails to make bike commuting attractive. He says businesses can do their part by providing facilities for employees who bike.
“There is a misnomer that, ‘Oh, my co-worker rides to work. He’s going to smell like sweat all day.’ And that’s not really the case. I mean, you can provide some type of facility to clean up. And leaving your clothes at work is one way to make it easier.”
I don’t know how realistic that is for most businesses. If there aren’t already shower facilities available, I think it’s unlikely that one will be installed to accommodate one or two employees. More realistic, perhaps, would be to subsidize a membership in a nearby fitness club for that purpose. For downtown employers who are probably already subsidizing employee parking, that might be an attractive alternative. I have no idea how many places could do something like that. It’s a non-trivial obstacle to overcome.
Via Houston Tomorrow, you can see the actual figures from the League here. The data comes from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey – be sure to read the note about ACS limitations, notes, and cautions at the end of that post. In particular, these figures are estimates, with margins of error included. For Houston, the range of bike commuters within the given confidence interval would be approximately 3000 to 5600 per day. For some cities will smaller workforces and/or number of bike commuters, the margin of error is as big as the estimate. They also only ask about the primary mode of transportation, so people who bike to work once or twice a week, or who bike to a bus or train station may not be counted. I’ve now taken Olivia to school on our tandem bike a couple of times, and I expect that will become a regular weekly occurrence, so that makes sense to me. In case you’re curious, the bike commuting capital is Portland, OR. Take a look at the data and see what you think. The METRO blog has more.