Eugene’s bike commuting percentage; gender issues; and other bits and pieces

Well, what do we make of this? The U.S. Census Bureau every year about this time releases what’s called the American Community Survey. It’s a big pile of information about how we all live. One of the questions concerns how people get to work.

Looking at the percentage of working people in Eugene who say they commute to work by bike, we’re down a bit compared to the previous four years. The 2011 number from the Census Bureau is 7.3 percent.

I think these numbers are not incredibly precise. There is a significant margin of error. It’s also worth pointing out that in 2007, the Census Bureau estimated that 59 people in Eugene reported to work via either subway or elevated train. In 2008, 73 people were said to have commuted by ferryboat. So let’s just take these numbers as sorta, kinda ballpark figures.

Here’s the raw data (click to make it bigger). The yellow number are the percentage of total commuters who commute by bike. The blue show the percentage who are male:

If you’re a real statistics geek and want to do some number crunching on the raw numbers, you may have at it.

Anyway, if you are disappointed that the number is down for 2011, it’s good to remember that the percentage of workers nationwide who commuted by bike in 2011 was 0.6 percent, according to the Census Bureau. And that’s generously rounding up.

So Eugene’s rate is more than 10 times the national rate.

Here’s something else: Our ratio of men to women is somewhat more equitable. Nationally, of those bold bike commuters, just 27 percent were women, according to the survey.

In Eugene in 2011, the number was about 40 percent. Here’s how the gender breakdown in Eugene looks over those same five years:

* * *

Speaking of men and women and bikes, there’s a fine bicycle writer named Elly Blue, who was questioning whether women are fairly presented in the bicycling world or whether they are objectified. She was talking mostly, I think, about advertisements and advocacy campaigns.

She posited a bicycle version of what is called the Bechdel Test, which is a three-question method of gauging whether a movie portrays women as actual real human beings, or whether the movie is “Porkies.”

This topic is a good excuse for me to post a photo that I had really no good reason to post before. It was actually taken during a trip to San Francisco this past spring:

Let’s run this photo through the Bechdel Test, shall we?

1. Are women present or represented at all?


She may  be in the background, but she is clearly the focal point of the photo. Much more so than the guy in the left of the frame, who is my cousin, and who at the time was saying something, like, “Whoa, sexy girl on a bike.” Remember, we are judging the photo itself, not the minds of the men standing on the sidewalk. If we were judging the minds of men on the sidewalk … oh, never mind.

2. Are the women presented as active subjects rather than passive objects?

I am going to say that she appears to be actively looking out for traffic. Moreover, anyone who cycles the streets of San Francisco is no wilting daisy, in my opinion. And that goes double if wearing boots to mid-calf.

3. If the gender were reversed, would the meaning stay more or less unchanged? (Or would the image become hilarious?)

Oh, come on. This is San Francisco.

Anyway, I had been unfamiliar with the Bechdel Test and thought it was interesting. But Question #3 — if the gender were reversed — did bring to mind some advertisements I remember seeing that featured the Italian superstar cyclist known as “Super Mario” and/or “Chipo”:

Yes, Mario Cipollini, ladies and gentlemen.

So we Tweeted this photo to Elly Blue:

She’s funny.

* * *

A dear reader named Julian, who is apparently one of Eugene’s 7.3 percent, sends this our way. “I saw this artistic modification to the bike lane …”:

I can’t say whether that looks devilish, or sci-fi.

I haven’t noticed much of this kind of thing around town. But for the first person who can leave a comment telling me where this (except for you, Julian!), I have a free “Eugene Bicyclist: Fine Blogging Since 2010” T-shirt. The only caveat is that this is the LAST “Eugene Bicyclist: Fine Blogging Since 2010” T-shirt. It is a size Small. That’s all that’s left. But it’s free for the taking!

I know, Julian sent the photo. He deserves something. We’ll see what we can scrounge up for him.

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