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#1 2012-12-31 14:35:12

bizikletari
Member
Registered: 2009-03-18
Posts: 223

Austin's ranking as a top bicycling city

By the great Old guy on two wheels, a nice mapping of our biking realities. We seem to have some room for improvement.

[site no longer up, nothing at the Internet Archive]

More graphs, less delusions.

Have a great 2013 everyone!

Last edited by bizikletari (2012-12-31 14:39:50)

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#2 2013-01-01 01:14:07

MichaelBluejay
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,253
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Re: Austin's ranking as a top bicycling city

Glad to see that the Walk Score® folks are now doing Bike Scores as well.  I tabulated the 25 cities that they've scored so far, and Austin ranks a pitiful 22nd out of 25.  Ouch.  But I'm not surprised.  The reality trumps the hype.

I added that to my article on Is Austin really a Top 10 cycling city?.

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#3 2013-01-01 21:52:14

owlman
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Registered: 2011-12-16
Posts: 142

Re: Austin's ranking as a top bicycling city

Looking at the bike lanes heatmap, the Barton Creek Greenbelt and Lady Bird Lake trails probably make Austin's bikeability score higher than it should be.

Last edited by owlman (2013-01-02 16:36:46)

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#4 2013-01-02 11:20:05

NadiaB
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Registered: 2009-06-11
Posts: 68

Re: Austin's ranking as a top bicycling city

I'm personally very frustrated, and have contacted walkscore.  I'm not sure where they got their "bike lane" data but it is missing the majority of our bike lanes - Shoal Creek, 11th &  12th Streets, Cherrywood/Chestnut/Pleasant Valley.  I mean, the east side is one of the greatest places to ride a bike because of the topography, slow traffic, and bicycle facilities - and they have it being a glaring red.  Anyway, I just think their methodology is a bit off.  Let's see if we can't pull up that ranking a little bit :)

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#5 2013-01-02 14:38:18

CharlesDuffy
Member
Registered: 2009-07-03
Posts: 56

Re: Austin's ranking as a top bicycling city

NadiaB wrote:

I'm personally very frustrated, and have contacted walkscore.  I'm not sure where they got their "bike lane" data but it is missing the majority of our bike lanes - Shoal Creek, 11th &  12th Streets, Cherrywood/Chestnut/Pleasant Valley.  I mean, the east side is one of the greatest places to ride a bike because of the topography, slow traffic, and bicycle facilities - and they have it being a glaring red.  Anyway, I just think their methodology is a bit off.  Let's see if we can't pull up that ranking a little bit :)

With all due respect, I'm hard-pressed to call leaving out the poorly-maintained parking lane on Shoal Creek an inaccuracy unless there's been a great deal of improvement since it stopped being part of my commute a year ago. Agreed on the east side, though.

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#6 2013-01-02 15:33:00

MichaelBluejay
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,253
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Re: Austin's ranking as a top bicycling city

When the City Council gave its blessing to cars parking in the bike lane on Shoal Creek Blvd. (over the strong objections of city staff, me, and national safety guidelines), the city can't exactly expect to get full credit for those "bike lanes".  Remember also that the Council actually emphatically denies that they're bike lanes at all, so that they don't have to admit that they let cars park in bike lanes.  If the Council doesn't think they're bike lanes, then why should the Bike Score folks?

Here's more on the the Shoal Creek bike lane debacle.

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#7 2013-01-05 18:41:00

dougmc
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Registered: 2008-06-01
Posts: 565

Re: Austin's ranking as a top bicycling city

MichaelBluejay wrote:

I added that to my article on Is Austin really a Top 10 cycling city?.

"Bike lanes for cars, not bikes.  Cars are legally able to park in somemost of the bike lanes (!), with the City's blessing."

Fixed that for you.  The city seems to only prohibits parking in bike lanes if it's a location that people wouldn't normally park there anyways -- but most bike lanes seem to permit parking.  It is the default position, after all.

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#8 2013-01-05 21:23:59

MichaelBluejay
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,253
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Re: Austin's ranking as a top bicycling city

That's funny, a while back I changed the wording FROM "many" or "most" to "some", because I thought things might have been getting better and I wanted to be fair and not accused of exaggerating.  But anyway, are you sure that most bike lanes allow car parking, at least some of the time?  Unless someone happens to know the % off the top of their head (like city staff), it would be a huge task to start trying to tally it up.

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#9 2013-01-05 22:44:30

dougmc
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Registered: 2008-06-01
Posts: 565

Re: Austin's ranking as a top bicycling city

Well, the default is to allow parking -- they have to explicitly prohibit it for it to be prohibited. I don't know an official percentage, but I'd guess around 60-70% of the marked bike lanes allow parking, and most of those that don't don't because they were added to arterials where parking wasn't allowed before the installation of the bike lanes either.

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#10 2013-01-07 09:35:01

NadiaB
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Registered: 2009-06-11
Posts: 68

Re: Austin's ranking as a top bicycling city

Per the 2009 Bicycle Master Plan (action item 1.1), the goal is to remove all permitted parking in bicycle lanes by 2020.  The Plan also established that the City does not build new bicycle lanes with parking permitted.  There are some rare cases where parking is restricted during certain times of the day (usually commuting times), dependent upon the context of the lane. This is determined in a case-by-case analysis called the "Parking Modification Guidelines" (PMG). The PMG is a tool that includes parking surveys during multiple times a day (weekend/weekday/morning/evening/afternoon), an analysis of the traffic on the roadway, and multiple opportunities to collaborate with stakeholders.  Many of you may remember the process we went through with the Cherrywood bicycle facilities - in which we worked closely with the neighborhood and the cycling community to find a solution that worked for everyone.  In 2009, 53 miles of the 141 miles of bicycle lanes permitted parking.  Since 2009, we have installed approximately 30 miles of bicycle lanes per year.  We have also implemented our Parking Modification Guidelines for each of those lanes.  Our target benchmark is to remove 5.5 miles of permitted parking in bicycle lanes per year, and thus far we are on track (or better), actually removing 6.6 miles of permitted parking in bicycle lanes per year.

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#11 2013-01-07 14:48:28

MichaelBluejay
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
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Re: Austin's ranking as a top bicycling city

Okay, so you're making us do the math for some reason.  If we had 141 miles of bike lines in 2009 and you've added ~30 per year in 2010, 2011, and 2012, then we have 141+90 = 243 bike lanes now.  If 53 miles of those lanes allowed parking in 2009, and you've removed 6.6 miles of parking per year, that's 53 - 3(6.6) = 33.2.  So 33 miles of our 243 bike lanes allow parking, or about 1/7th of them.  Is that right?  If so, that's definitely an improvement over the 53/141 = 38% (3/8) in 2009, just three years ago.

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#12 2013-01-07 18:06:54

NadiaB
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Registered: 2009-06-11
Posts: 68

Re: Austin's ranking as a top bicycling city

Exactly!  I mainly wanted to say that it is our policy to systematically restrict parking in bicycle lanes because it impedes the ability of a person on a bicycle to travel safely and comfortably.

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#13 2013-01-08 21:03:48

MichaelBluejay
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From: Austin, TX
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Re: Austin's ranking as a top bicycling city

Speaking of rankings, Transportation For America ranks Austin-Round Rock as #18 among metro areas of 1 million+ residents for pedestrian danger.  Since the Austin metro area is only #34 by population, Austin's pedestrian safety is downright lousy.

Their methodology seems pretty good:  They don't simply look at the rate of pedestrian fatalities per 1000 population, they combine that with the number of people walking (to work) in the first place.  That avoids having a metro area with few walkers rate as safe just because its kill rate is low.  An area with fewer walkers *should* have a lower fatality rate.

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#14 2013-01-11 14:37:03

dougmc
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Registered: 2008-06-01
Posts: 565

Re: Austin's ranking as a top bicycling city

I wonder if the city's idea of "parking is not permitted" differs from mine and that's the difference between my 60-70% estimate and the city's official figure of 37% (as of 2009, should be lower now.)

For example, the new bike lanes on Wm Cannon West of Mopac are about 0.7 miles long on either side, and they have exactly *one* "no parking" sign on each side, right at the beginning of the bike lane.  Obviously the intent is that parking is not permitted -- there weren't any signs prohibiting parking before but I imagine that the idea was that nobody would park there (as it would take up a lane) and nobody ever did unless their car broke down.  But now, there's that one sign on either side, and well, you can say that parking isn't permitted, but the reality is that it's not reasonable to expect somebody to obey a "no parking" sign that's half a mile away and if a ticket were given there, I'd expect the court to throw it out for lack of signage.

I've yet to see a car parking in that bike lane, but I imagine it'll happen soon enough.

What are the guidelines for "no parking" zones?  Don't there need to be signs or markings every block or every X feet?  Davis lane near my house seems to have signs every hundred or so feet -- no question you aren't allowed to park there -- but it's very much the exception.

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#15 2013-01-12 07:39:17

MichaelBluejay
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,253
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Re: Austin's ranking as a top bicycling city

Here's a map which graphically shows which cities in the U.S. have the greatest proportion of cyclists.

Austin ranks poorly.

But the good news is that we've supposedly doubled our percentage of bike commuters between 2006 to 2011 (from 0.9% to 1.88).

The bad news is that our entire gain is likely within the margin of error.  (i.e., We might have actually had little to no increase.)

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#16 2013-01-12 12:15:10

tomwald
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From: 78722
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 288

Re: Austin's ranking as a top bicycling city

dougmc wrote:

What are the guidelines for "no parking" zones?  Don't there need to be signs or markings every block or every X feet?

I've spoken with City Staff on this many times and their response sounds quite reasonable to me.

On most arterials, it is expected that people will not park their cars.  The City does not want people to park in those bike lanes on arterials, but a nearby no-parking sign is typically not needed to discourage parking.  While a single instance of someone parking in such a location would not likely produce a court-proof citation, such repeated behavior would likely prompt the City to place no-parking signs in that location, which would, in turn, allow for court-proof citations.  So, if you ever do see a problem area that does not have no-parking signs, please do inform the City via 311 (and if there are inadequate results, follow up directly with the Bike Program.)

I understand that the main reasons the City does not saturate streets with no-parking signs is to avoid sign clutter and the added expense.

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#17 2013-01-12 18:50:37

bizikletari
Member
Registered: 2009-03-18
Posts: 223

Re: Austin's ranking as a top bicycling city

Without a sign prohibiting parking on the bike lane, people will park, legally, blocking it. And a blocked bike lane is more or less dangerous, depending on various circumstances; but dangerous by definition.
Saving money on signage, while spending millions on a boardwalk (posed as bike infrastructure) shows to me that at some point the priorities went astray.

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#18 2013-01-12 21:34:52

dougmc
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Registered: 2008-06-01
Posts: 565

Re: Austin's ranking as a top bicycling city

Is Far West an arterial?  This picture got lot of attention on Facebook of somebody parking on Far West near Murchison middle school, blocking the bike lane.  No "no parking signs", so parking there is legal, but when the city counts miles of bike lanes where parking is permitted vs. where it's not, how is this bike lane counted?

That said, there's not much parking around there, so people do park in this bike lane quite often, especially at the top of the hill.

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#19 2013-01-13 10:14:09

tomwald
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From: 78722
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 288

Re: Austin's ranking as a top bicycling city

dougmc wrote:

Is Far West an arterial?  This picture got lot of attention on Facebook of somebody parking on Far West near Murchison middle school, blocking the bike lane.  No "no parking signs", so parking there is legal, but when the city counts miles of bike lanes where parking is permitted vs. where it's not, how is this bike lane counted?

That said, there's not much parking around there, so people do park in this bike lane quite often, especially at the top of the hill.

Far West is an arterial.  And since people do park there quite often, there should be no-parking signs.  I'll send a reminder email to City Staff momentarily.

bizikletari:  The cost of the signs comes in a distant second, from what I remember.  Sign clutter, on the other hand, is not just an aesthetic concern, but also a safety concern due to over-stimulation.  If you disagree with the City's status quo on this, then I recommend that you argue your case with the BAC and not just here.

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#20 2013-01-13 16:24:14

dougmc
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Registered: 2008-06-01
Posts: 565

Re: Austin's ranking as a top bicycling city

MichaelBluejay wrote:

The bad news is that our entire gain is likely within the margin of error.  (i.e., We might have actually had little to no increase.)

I don't know the margins of error for the 2006 figures, but assuming there's no error in 2006, or even assuming that the error bars in the 2006 figures are the same size as the 2011 figures, this isn't true.

The graphic said --

Bicycle commuters: 8,206 (+/- 2,182)
Total workers: 436,502 (+/- 9,004)
2011 Percent Bicycle communters: 1.88%
2006 Percent Bicycle Commuters: 0.91%

Trusting these error figures to be correct, that gives a 2011 percent bicycle commuters figure between 1.35% and 2.43%.  Even if I apply similar errors to the 2006 figure it doesn't go as high as 1.35%.

1.88% is a pretty decent figure in a country where the average is 0.55% (well, it was a few years ago, not sure what it is now.)  Sure, we're not #1, but we're well above average, and that's a huge increase in the last few years.

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#21 2013-01-13 16:28:23

dougmc
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Registered: 2008-06-01
Posts: 565

Re: Austin's ranking as a top bicycling city

tomwald wrote:

Far West is an arterial.  And since people do park there quite often, there should be no-parking signs.  I'll send a reminder email to City Staff momentarily.

Well, the side close to Murchison has always had cars parked there since even before the bike lanes went in -- the field behind the school draws a lot of joggers, and that's the best hill in town for several activities such as R/C slope flying and hang gliding practice, and even sledding on the very few days where we get snow.

There might be considerable pushback in putting no-parking signs on that side.  Though the people complaining won't necessarily live right there, so many may not even know about it until it's too late.  (And no, I'm not saying this is a good thing, but it might mean less pushback than we normally see.)

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#22 2013-01-14 09:04:02

MichaelBluejay
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,253
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Re: Austin's ranking as a top bicycling city

dougmc wrote:

Trusting these error figures to be correct, that gives a 2011 percent bicycle commuters figure between 1.35% and 2.43%.  Even if I apply similar errors to the 2006 figure it doesn't go as high as 1.35%.

Whoops, I completely spaced that.  Thanks for catching it!

dougmc wrote:

1.88% is a pretty decent figure in a country where the average is 0.55% (well, it was a few years ago, not sure what it is now.)  Sure, we're not #1, but we're well above average, and that's a huge increase in the last few years.

Well, saying we're "above average" is certainly setting the bar low!

But actually, I just tabulated Austin's rank according to the most populous cities, and it turns out we're pretty good!  Among the top 15 biggest cities, Austin has the 2nd-highest percentage of bike commuters at 1.88%.  (The leader is San Francisco, at 3.44%.)  We're #1 among the 13 largest cities.  I just added this data to my Austin a Top 10 cycling city? article.

Here are the various rankings I now have on that page:

   • Austin ranks in 56th place among all cities for the percentage of commuters who bike to work.
   • Austin ranks in 13th place among large cities (>100k workers) for the % of commuters who bike to work.
   • We're not among the top 10 metro areas for percentage of people biking to work. (2009 Census; Austin's explicit rank not listed)
   • We rank an abysmal 57th among cities greater than 250,000 people for the percentage of car-free households. (2000 U.S. Census)
   • (However, Austin does have the 2nd-highest percentage of bike commuters (1.88%) among the top 15 cities in the U.S.) (Governing, 2011)

Also, I just noticed another useful link on the Governing map.  It shows the gain or loss of cyclists from 2006 to 2011.  Austin fared great in that regard.  Interesting to me are the several areas where the number of bike commuters decreased.  City planners often look to other successful cities to see what they did right, but it's probably just as useful to look at the failed cities to see what they did *wrong*.  (I wonder what those cities did.  Helmet laws, perhaps?)  I hope somebody with more time than I have will check that out....

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#23 2013-01-14 14:32:56

dougmc
Administrator
Registered: 2008-06-01
Posts: 565

Re: Austin's ranking as a top bicycling city

MichaelBluejay wrote:
dougmc wrote:

1.88% is a pretty decent figure in a country where the average is 0.55% (well, it was a few years ago, not sure what it is now.)  Sure, we're not #1, but we're well above average, and that's a huge increase in the last few years.

Well, saying we're "above average" is certainly setting the bar low!

To be fair, I said "well above average".  And I wasn't really "setting the bar" at all, just questioning the "bad news" claim.

Really, doubling in a few years is freakin' huge.  I don't know who to credit for that (I can make some guesses), but somebody is clearly doing something right (or at least way more right than previously) assuming that the figures are correct and measured in the same way.  (And I certainly have noticed more cyclists out there lately.)

• Austin ranks in 56th place among all cities for the percentage of commuters who bike to work.
   • Austin ranks in 13th place among large cities (>100k workers) for the % of commuters who bike to work.
   • We're not among the top 10 metro areas for percentage of people biking to work. (2009 Census; Austin's explicit rank not listed)
   • We rank an abysmal 57th among cities greater than 250,000 people for the percentage of car-free households. (2000 U.S. Census)

Claims like "56th place" aren't particularly useful if you don't mention how many places there are total in that comparison.  For example, this page says that the Census counted '19,355 "incorporated places" in the United States' -- 56th out of 19,355 would be pretty impressive, though I doubt that's quite what they were counting.

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#24 2013-01-14 18:00:50

AusTexMurf
Member
From: South Austin
Registered: 2008-11-21
Posts: 439

Re: Austin's ranking as a top bicycling city

Without statistics........
Yes.....I am very grateful for the increase in bicycle lanes and increased attention/awareness for cyclists. And I have been seeing more bike commuters in the past year or two.
We need it.
Because, I am 100% sure I have seen a redonculous increase in auto traffic in austin in the past 20 years. Affects us not just as cyclists, but auto traffic cutting through our neighborhoods affects us as citizens, parents, pet owners, walkers, blah, blah, blah.
COA and interested citizens, please keep up the pressure and the hard work to give us cycling options instead of only increased auto traffic flow.
Many thanks,
Murf

Last edited by AusTexMurf (2013-01-14 20:30:45)

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#25 2013-01-15 05:26:03

MichaelBluejay
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,253
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Re: Austin's ranking as a top bicycling city

Here's another ranking metric I dug up (and added to the Top 10) page:

   "Austin doesn't rank in the top 19 bicycle-friendly cities rated by the League of American Bicyclists in 2012.  (We're at the Silver level, where places #20-57 are all lumped together.)"

So that makes two entities (WalkScore and LAB) that say we're nowhere near being in the Top 10 for bikeable U.S. cities.

Also, I found that Austin's recent bike growth wasn't limited to here.  The percentage of bike commuters grew 63% from 2000-2010 among the 70 largest cities:
2011_acs_chart.gif

dougmc wrote:

Claims like "56th place" aren't particularly useful if you don't mention how many places there are total in that comparison.

Point taken.  I tried to look up the original data but couldn't find it.  So I found another source, and now here's the current way I present it on the Top 10 page (with the sources linked there):

   • Austin ranked in 120th place among 375 cities for the percentage of commuters who bike to work. (2010 Am. Community Survey)
   • Austin ranked 22nd among the 70 largest cities for the percentage of commuters who bike to work from 2000-2010. (Am. Community Survey)
   • We're not among the top 10 metro areas for percentage of people biking to work. (2009 Census; Austin's explicit rank not listed)
   • We rank an abysmal 57th among cities greater than 250,000 people for the percentage of car-free households. (2000 U.S. Census)
   • (However, Austin does have the 2nd-highest percentage of bike commuters (1.88%) among the largest 15 cities in the U.S.) (Governing, 2011)

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