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More fun from the American Community Survey! Every year, the League of American Bicyclists takes bike commuter rates from across the country and dumps them into a big spreadsheet, comparing how the 70 largest cities stack up. The District, which ranks 27th in population, had the 6th highest rate of people commuting to work by bicycle in 2008. Last year, however, seven percent fewer people biked to work, putting us at number eight. Which is an usual direction for the District to be going: Our bike commuter rate has increased 86 percent since 2000, compared to the 44 percent increase nationwide. From 2008 to 2009, the rate of people commuting to work primarily by bike nationwide stayed flat as a pancake.
This new data challenges my theory of bike popularity in D.C. When I moved here in May 2009, having spent the two previous summers in the District, I thought I noticed a marked increase in the number of bikes on the street—especially on the Hill. Blithely, I attributed this to the arrival of the Obama administration, with its hordes of young, idealistic, enviro-friendly types. The data, however says otherwise. While the 25 percent rise in bike commuting from 2005 to 2009 might reflect the flip in the House—under the hypothesis that Democrats bike more than Republicans—there was no Obama bike bump. In fact, there was an Obama slump.
And another half-baked theory bites the dust.