This exciting news just in from the Census Bureau: Portland has the highest percentage of commutes to work by bike of any city in the entire goddamn U.S. of A!

The numbers collected by the census show a huge jump in biking to work in Portland over the last decade. In 1996, fewer than two percent of Portlanders biked to work. Since then, the number of Portlanders who say they get to work primarily by bike has increased a whopping 250 percent. In 2008, 6.5 percent of Portlanders said their primary mode of transportation to work is a bike. That's just about 35,000 people. Holy shit.

Also, if you're wondering, the Portland Mercury domination team has already logged 609 miles in the annual Bike Commute Challenge.

This graph may have been drawn on MS Paint, but that doesnt mean its not astounding and accurate!
  • This graph may have been drawn on MS Paint, but that doesn't mean it's not astounding and accurate!

So, what's changed since 1996? The city has doubled the number of bike lanes from 100 miles of bikeways around Portland to over 300 miles today. We've replaced 20 car parking spots with bike corrals that can fit about a dozen parked bikes each. We've signed on to the Safe Routes to School program, which teaches a two-week long bike safety class to students in almost every public Portland elementary school. We've hosted national bike building conferences, created the nation's largest free bike-fun festival and patronized bike-friendly businesses. All these changes show that creating a bike-friendly city doesn't just happen. Infrastructure matters. Education matters. Culture matters.

The bad news? Beating the rest of America in bike commuting is a pretty low bar. In Amsterdam, 30 to 40 percent of people bike to work. Next weekend, big time Danish urban planners are coming to Portland as part of bike-builder festival Oregon Manifest to present how biking has transformed transportation in Denmark. We may be #1 in the home country, but as a city we've still got a lot to learn.