Each September usually sees the release of the American Community Survey (ACS), which provides the only annual estimate by a federal agency of how much bicycling and walking is happening in the United States. With the Covid-19 pandemic disrupting so many aspects of life, it also disrupted ACS data collection by the Census Bureau. Rather than a normal release of data for 2020, an experimental dataset was released in late November.
The experimental data released by the Census Bureau has one data table on Means of Transportation to Work in 2020. It can be found under the “Economic” header and Table XK200801.
Unfortunately, the data released does not provide any new data on how many people biked and walked to work in 2020. Despite many reports of a “bike boom” and many governments implementing programs to encourage people to bike and walk outside in their neighborhoods, we don’t have official federal agency data that speaks to those developments. And, because of the disruptions to workplace settings in 2020, it would be difficult to draw conclusions about a “bike boom” from commute to work data alone and therefore users should take caution when using the data as a sole source.
Due to limitations in the data collected, biking and walking as modes of commuting were grouped with “taxicab, motorcycle, bicycle, walked, or other means.” This broad grouping makes it impossible to know how changes in the dataset are due to people’s choices about using taxis, motorcycles, bicycles, their feet, or other means of getting to work. Like other modes of travel to work, “taxicab, motorcycle, bicycle, walked, or other means” mostly showed fewer people using those commuting options in 2020.
Many tables on data.bikeleague.org use ACS data to report on the prevalence of biking and walking and the demographics of people who bike and walk to work. While the Census Bureau may release additional data, it is likely that the longitudinal data reporting on data.bikeleague.org will be disrupted for 2020. 5-year estimates are anticipated in March 2022 and the possibility of updating data tables will be assessed at that time.
For what it is worth, “taxicab, motorcycle, bicycle, walked, or other means” of travel to work had a smaller decline on average than other modes. The average percentage change for “taxicab, motorcycle, bicycle, walked, or other means” for all states was -9.5%, which is less of a drop than for “car, truck, or van – drove alone;” “car, truck, or van – carpooled;” or “public transportation (excluding taxicab).”
Unsurprisingly, “worked from home” saw large increases in most states, averaging slightly more than a 150% increase across all states, with a low increase of 53.2% in Wyoming and a high increase of nearly 272% in Massachusetts.
See the table below for data on how each state’s commuting modes changed.