A closer look at who bikes to work in Arlington

Last month, the District Department of Transportation released a map, broken down by census tract, of how many people commuted by bike in Northwest D.C. as part of its presentation on a proposed protected bike lane in Shaw. In a blog post over at BikeArlington, our Research Director Stephen Crim took a similar look at Arlington County’s commuting habits from 2009 to 2013. 

In some neighborhoods, especially those near the county’s trail system, at least one in 10 people bike to work. Certain tracts along the Custis Trail in North Arlington and near the Mt. Vernon Trail in South Arlington had biking rates much greater than the county’s average over that time period, 1.3 percent. This kind of granular view can help planners and communities see where exactly residents are biking, and where bike-specific infrastructure could help the most.


National surveys tell us that bike commuting is on the rise, but we know that it’s not increasing at the same rate everywhere. Even within small geographic areas, like Arlington County or the District of Columbia, the share of people who get on a bike most days for their trip to work can vary a lot from neighborhood to neighborhood depending on the kind of bike infrastructure available to connect residents to where they need to go and other factors.

Arlington bike commuting by census tract

Bike commuting by census tract and block groups (smaller areas). Click for a PDF.

To take a quick look at how bike commuting varies around Arlington County, we can turn to data from the Census Bureau. The Census Bureau asks Americans how they get to work most days through the American Community Survey, which is a valuable resource for planners and people who want to know more about their communities.

Every five years, the Census Bureau releases data detailed enough that it lets us see how people in the different neighborhoods within Arlington County (and most everywhere else in the United States) commute to work. Through the Census Bureau’s Maps & Data web site, you can download commute data for neighborhoods (known as either “Census Block Groups” or “Census Tracts” depending on how small of an area you want) as part of a much larger package of facts and figures. The Census Bureau makes its data available for use through Google Earth or the popular (but not free!) ArcGIS software packages.

Map created by Stephen Crim.

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