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More New Yorkers than ever walk or bike to work

Two-wheel commuters use N.Y. bike lane
Two-wheel commuters use N.Y. bike lane
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

New York is becoming a true cycling and pedestrian commuting city among metropolitan areas, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. A new report released this week shows that 0.8 percent of New York City commuters rode a bike to work, a larger percentage than the average of 0.6 percent in the country as a whole. Meanwhile, the report shows that 10.3 percent of New Yorkers walked to work.

That may not sound like much. However, translated into actual numbers that means more than 294,000 cyclists pedaled to work and more than 379,000 pedestrians walked to work in the city on an average day. The boroughs with the largest percentage of bikers were Manhattan (1.1 percent) and Brooklyn (1.2 percent.) The percentage of walkers to work in Manhattan was 21.3 percent.

These still add up to a small number compared with the more than 55 percent of New Yorkers who took public transportation to work. But the data signaled a continuing upward curve of cyclists and walkers. This year's official Bike to Work Day in New York is Friday.

The numbers come from the first ever survey by the Census Bureau to focus on nonmotorized commuting. The increase came between 2008 and 2012. According to the survey, cycling as a means of commuting surged by 60 percent overall in the last past decade - making it the biggest jump in any means of commuting tracked by the Census.

In certain cities smaller than New York, the numbers were even greater: Portland, Ore. – with 6.1 percent - had the highest number of bicycle commuters among 15 large cities. Next came Madison, Wis., Minneapolis, Boise, Seattle, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., all with over 3 percent of commuters making their trips by bicycle. Boston gets the prize for biggest percentage of walkers to work – a whopping 15.1 percent among larger cities.

Brian McKenzie, a sociologist and the author of the Census report, attributed the growth to measures taken by local communities to encourage nonmotorized commuting, including investments in “bike share programs, bike lanes and more pedestrian-friendly streets." His report showed that more men were apt to bike or walk to work than women, although male cyclists far outnumbered female cyclists. College towns such as Ithaca, N.Y. (42 percent) were likely to have a major pedestrian commuter presence.

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