ON BIKE CULTURE IN EUGENE | Fine blogging since 2010 (with periodic long breaks)
A couple of weeks ago we had that typhoon, remember. And there were almost as many cyclists about as there were clogged storm drains, which was fun to see. Here’s a pond that developed at 15th and Lawrence:
But as I rode around in that downpour, doing some errands, a thought crossed my mind that surprised me. At first, I didn’t think I would confess it here. But why shouldn’t I?
I’ll back up a minute to mention that I enjoy doing errands by bike, even in the rain. And now that we have the Xtracycle, carrying stuff home is easy.
And the day of the typhoon, I went to Hummingbird Wholesale — which is like Costco for hippies — to pick up some big bags of flour and rice and beans and a 2.5-gallon jug of soy sauce, because my children drink it like water.
But riding home in jeans with a bunch of bulk food on my bike in a hammering downpour, I thought: “Wow, I wonder if these people driving past in their dry, warm cars think I’m too poor to own a car.”
And I had a brief moment of self-consciousness about that. Which is weird, because this doesn’t normally happen to me. I usually don’t think about bikes that way. And I don’t care much what anyone thinks of my income. And if I was too poor to own a car, so what?
But I am a product of American society, so I suppose these stigmas soak in over the years — and I suppose they can be hard to shake.
Recently, I came across a chart that showed the portion of “bicycle trips” made in the United States by four different income quartiles. The trips were pretty evenly distributed, with the poorest quartile accounting for slightly more trips.
But the speculation among those who did the study is that among poorer people, those “bike trips” tend to be transportation. Among the wealthier, “bike trips” tend to be for recreation.
You know, golf …
But I got wondering specifically about Eugene. I couldn’t find any data about “bicycle trips” — or bicycle errands. But the United States Census Bureau kindly offers us information by city about how people commute to work.
Data from the U.S. government would seem to be authoritative. Although, looking at this table in front of me right now, I see that the Census Bureau reports that 16 people in Eugene commuted to work by ferry boat.
All of them men.
So we will bear that in mind.
Now, you may have heard that Eugene has a pretty high bicycle-commuting rate, compared to the rest of the United States, anyway — somewhere around 8 or 10 percent depending on the data you look at.
Here are the Census Bureau estimates over the three years (2008-10):
Not reflected here is the 1 percent “other” — which we will venture is not, in fact, ferry boats, but rather skateboards.
But let’s get back to the money question. Here’s the likelihood that you ride a bike to work in Eugene depending on your income. For instance, of all the people earning $15,000 to $24,999 per year, 14 percent commuted by bike:
So as long as we are mucking around on the Census Bureau website, here’s the percentage of people in Eugene in various age groups who use a bicycle as their primary means of getting to work:
We can see what this means, can’t we? It means either rich people, old people and women are not getting with program — or it means, more likely, that the demographic bulge of college dudes riding fixies to campus and their jobs at Dutch Bros. is skewing the data.
*All data is from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey “three-year estimate,” covering the years 2008-10 for the city of Eugene.