CHICAGO — The number of people who bike to work in the city jumped by about 2,300 cyclists, or 13.7 percent, between 2011 and 2012, new U.S. Census data estimates show.
In all, 19,147 Chicago residents — 1.6 percent of commuters — say they use a bike for the longest part of their daily trip to work, according to the census numbers from the 2012 American Community Survey.
In an earlier report, the Census warned that it may be underestimating the number of cyclists "because of relatively small sample sizes."
Cyclists complained that the Census allows those surveyed to only check one mode of transportation. So if a commuter uses a bike to get to an "L" stop and the remaining portion of the trip is longer, the commuter is recorded as using mass transit.
Almost six in 10 commuters ride in cars alone, the most popular choice for commuting in the city. About 26 percent of commuters take public transportation, the Census said.
City Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein said his agency has no firm data more recent than the 2012 Census figures, but bike use continues to grow in Chicago, helped by the arrival of the Divvy bike-sharing program this year.
"The bike-sharing program is really mainstreaming biking in Chicago," Klein said Thursday. "It changes the way cars, bikes, pedestrians interact."
According to Klein, informal bike counts on Dearborn have shown bicycle traffic doubled from before protected lines were installed.
While the number of people using bikes as their primary vehicle to get to work in Chicago is still small, the percentage has been on an uptick. An analysis last year by the gridchicago.com transportation blog said 1.4 percent of commuters in Chicago biked to work in 2011. In 2007, the bike share was 1.1 percent.
Nationally, Chicago lags behind other cities. In Washington, D.C., 4.1 percent biked to work in 2012, while 3.8 percent did so in San Francisco. Philadelphia measured 2.3 percent, compared with 2 percent in Boston and 1 percent in New York City, according to streetsblog.org.
In Chicago, 70 percent of people using a bike to get to work were male, the Census said.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel's Bike 2015 Plan proposes a 500-mile bikeway network, establishing a bikeway within a half-mile of every Chicago resident.
"We're hoping to get up to 5 percent," Klein said.