Richmond is among the 15 large U.S. cities with the highest percentage of the population cycling to work, according to a report released this month by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The agency found that 2.1 percent of commuters in Richmond ride a bicycle to work each day, which ranks it among cities more traditionally known for their cycling communities, such as Portland, Ore., Seattle and Denver.
While the majority of local commuters still use other forms of transportation to get to work, the number of people peddling to work here has jumped 102 percent since 2000 — well above a national increase of more than 60 percent.
Nationally, only 0.6 percent of commuters biked to work, the Census Bureau found.
The report, titled “Modes Less Traveled — Bicycling and Walking to Work in the United States: 2008-2012,” found that several large cities also saw major growth in the number of people who ride a bicycle to work.
“Portland had the highest bicycle-commuting rate at 6.1 percent, up from 1.8 percent in 2000. In Minneapolis, the rate increased from 1.9 percent to 4.1 percent,” according to the report.
Overall, Richmond was 13th among the 15 large cities.
“I’d like to think that in a very small way, I’m cutting down on air pollution and reducing global warming and not sending money overseas to countries that don’t particularly like us but sell us a lot of oil,” said Richard Morton, who works for the city of Richmond and lives in Henrico County.
Morton began cycling to work in 2000. His original intent was to save money on parking and gas, but what started as something practical has become a way of life.
“I must admit, at the end of the day, it boils down to the fact that I really enjoy it. I don’t know how many people can say they enjoy their commute,” he said.
Morton rides about 16 miles a day.
Jakob Helmboldt, pedestrian, bicycle and trail coordinator for the city of Richmond, said people like Morton are increasingly common here and across the country.
He said that nationally more people are cycling to work for a variety of reasons, including health and cost savings. Plus, more millennials are deciding against car ownership.
“We are seeing a consistent uptick in Richmond bike commuting over recent years and part is due to more awareness as a viable option,” he said.
Despite growth, the total number of people cycling to work remains low.
In Richmond, 7.2 percent of commuters use public transportation and 4.2 percent walk. The majority of residents still get to work by car, truck or van.
The news that Richmond is among the top cities with commuters biking to work comes ahead of next year’s road cycling world championships that will be held here.
Organizers of the 2015 race have said that creating a lasting cycling infrastructure in Richmond is a major piece of bringing the international event to town.
Richmond got a taste of major competitive cycling this month during the USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championships. That event brought thousands of fans and served as a test event for the world championships.
Before the start of the college event, Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones said he sees the international competition as an opportunity to get people thinking about cycling for health reasons as well as transportation.
“In terms of being a health city,” he said, “we need to do more active things and cycling has been emphasized as something that makes for a healthier lifestyle.”