Tim Craig had a piece in Saturday’s Washington Post metro section about the recent growth of cycling in the District. Headlined “Biking getting bigger in D.C.,” the story leaned on one figure in particular to justify its claim of a trend: Over the last ten years the number of District residents who commute by bike has doubled, to around 2.2 percent.
That is still, admittedly, a very small percentage of the overall commuter pool. So don’t be surprised when a local curmudgeon and bike hater like Gary Imhoff uses that figure as a cudgel to bash the use of city dollars for bike lanes and infrastructure. In a posting yesterday to The Mail, that old-timey-internet-looking D.C. discussion forum, Imhoff writes:
Wouldn’t a more accurate title for the article have been, “Few People Bike, Despite Many Government Incentives,”? It turns out that I’ve been exaggerating the importance of bicycling, since I’ve been using 3 percent as the percentage of commuters who travel by bicycle; in the future I’ll use 2 percent instead. Bicycling, as a practical mode of transportation rather than as a sport or hobby, is a niche enthusiasm.
Sure, one in 45 ain’t too many, generally speaking. But Imhoff ignores an important clarification Craig makes in the story. Looking at data from their hourly on-street “bike counts,” DDOT officials say that most of that increase in bike commuters has come since 2007, which makes sense, considering the hefty investment in bike projects under Mayor Adrian Fenty.
In that case, a near doubling of the number of D.C. bike commuters in such a short amount of time is in fact pretty impressive, even if they still account for a relatively small percentage of the overall population. The bottom line: Make biking easier and more people will get to work that way. Which, in turn, will mean Gary Imhoff has fewer cars to do battle with on D.C. roads.