BY BOBBY MAGILL • BOBBYMAGILL@COLORADOAN.COM • OCTOBER 3, 2010
Fort Collins isn’t Boulder when it comes to the popularity of biking to work, but it’s close.
It’s so close that Fort Collins now ranks third in the nation for the percentage of its workers who regularly hop on a bike and cycle to work each day, according to U.S. Census data released this week and compiled by Denver-based I-News, the nonprofit Rocky Mountain Investigative News Network.
With 12.3 percent of its work force cycling to jobs each day, Boulder has the highest bike-to-work rate in the country. Eugene, Ore., follows with 10.8 percent.
Fort Collins is third at 9.9 percent, with an estimated 7,776 people cycling to work each day.
The data come from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2009 American Community Survey, a detailed questionnaire sent to about 250,000 people nationwide.
The data have their limitations, however, given the small sampling of people surveyed. In Fort Collins, about 170 respondents said a bicycle is their primary mode of transportation to work. The margin of error on the survey is plus or minus 3,098 people.
Regardless of the large margin of error, the data are supported by a recent survey paid for by the North Front Range Metropolitan Planning Organization showing that 13.3 percent of employed people in the Fort Collins area rode their bikes to work on a certain day during the fall of 2009.
“We’re on a roll in this community,” said Rick Price, chairman of the Fort Collins Bicycling Advisory Commit-tee. “We’ve done a great job at building infrastructure. Fi-nally, we’ve been doing a great job publicizing how great it is to ride your bicycle. It’s beginning to pay off.”
He said the census survey is “quirky” and the data have some hiccups — the survey says 194 people in Colorado commute to work by ferry boat — but it shows people feel comfortable bicycling in Fort Collins.
And the survey could be impetus for the city to improve cycling infrastructure on roads and trails throughout Fort Collins, said city bicycle coordinator Dave “DK” Kemp.
“We have a number of projects in the pipeline to make our streets safer,” he said. “We’re looking at innovative traffic devices that make cycling safer on the streets, everything from bike boxes to shared lane markings.”
Expect at least one bike box to appear at an intersection near Colorado State University within six months, Kemp said, declining to disclose which intersection will see the bike box.
A bike box is a street marking allowing cyclists to pull in front of motor vehicles stopped at a red light, preventing cyclists from being hit by cars, particularly those turning right at intersections with no right-turn lanes, he said.
Kemp said the census data fail to provide a full picture of all the cyclists using Fort Collins streets.
“This doesn’t take into account all the people who are biking to schools, to CSU,” he said. “It doesn’t take into account all those folks who are riding their bikes to the grocery store, going shopping, dining, going downtown. We do remember there’s an even larger number of people who use bikes not just for going to work.”
Another fact emerging from the data is that nearly all of the top 10 cities for bicycle commuting are home to major colleges or universities, including Boulder, Fort Collins and Eugene, home of the University of Oregon.
Fourth in the nation for bicycle commuting is Berkeley, Calif., home to the University of California-Berkeley, followed by Cambridge, Mass., home of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Missoula, Mont., home of the University of Montana; Gainesville, Fla., home of the University of Florida; Portland, Ore., home to Portland State University; Chico, Calif., home to California State University-Chico; and Bellingham, Wash., home of Western Washington University.