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Pedal Power: More Chicago Commuters Ditching Cars, Public Transit

The Divvy bike station at Daley Plaza is used by many city employees who work at City Hall, across the street, and get a discount on annual memberships in the bike sharing program. (Credit: CBS)

The Divvy bike station at Daley Plaza is used by many city employees who work at City Hall, across the street, and get a discount on annual memberships in the bike sharing program. (Credit: CBS)

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By John Dodge

CHICAGO (CBS) — Since 2000, more and more Chicagoans have turned to foot power to commute to work, according to the U.S. Census.

While still a relatively low percentage of the total workforce, the number of people riding a bicycle to work jumped 60 percent from 2000 (5,900/0.5 percent of workers) to 2010 (15,800/1.3 percent).

“The rapid increase in the number of bicycle sharing programs and the implementation of other bicycle-related facilities, along with the proliferation of local events, such as bike-to-work days, reflect local-level interest in incorporating bicycle travel in the overall transportation mix across communities,” the report, “Modes Less Traveled: Bicycling And Walking To Work In The United States 2008-2010,” concludes.

The number of people in Chicago walking to work also increased–one of the few major cities to see an increase. In 2000, 67,900 people walked to work (5.7 percent of workers) compared with 77,689 (6.4 percent) in 2010.

The numbers are likely even higher now. Chicago’s Divvy bike-sharing system was only implemented last June and the city has added more bike lanes on city streets. In the first six months, Divvy averaged about 4,000 rides a day.

The report did not address whether higher gasoline prices and longer commutes were a factor.

However, other Census data shows that the average commute to work in the Chicago area (Cook, Lake, DuPage, Will and McHenry counties), increased four minutes between 1990 and 2010, from 27.6 minutes to 31.6 minutes.

McHenry had the biggest jump from 29 minutes in 1990 to 34 minutes in 2010. Lake County’s average spiked from 26 minutes to 30 minutes.

National gasoline prices, not adjusted for inflation, have increased from an average of $1.24 a gallon in 1990 to $3.68 a gallon today.

Nearly all of the walking and biking occurred in Cook County. The percentage of foot-powered commuters in the collar counties was statistically very small.