A quick look at bicycling in Evanston


The City of Evanston was recently awarded, for the first time, a Bicycle Friendly Community (Silver) designation by the League of American Bicyclists, based on its application (see the full list of awardees, .pdf). For reference, the City of Chicago has a Silver designation. Applications must be renewed with the organization every 5 years. The application asks questions like “How many government employees (including the Bicycle Program Manager), expressed in full-time equivalents, work on bicycle issues in your community?” and “What are the primary reasons your community has invested in bicycling?” It also asks about the mileage of different types of bikeways the city has as well as the mileage of roads (to calculate a density).

I wanted to know more about bicycling in Evanston, so I looked at the American Community Survey’s “Commuting Characteristics by Sex” table to see how people go to work; I looked at the 2006-2010 5-year estimate which asks different people each year for 5 years and is a representation of the data collected in that time period, and not for a single year. The population size for this table is 36,745 workers aged 16 and older and they can work in or outside Evanston (62.4% work the boundary).


  • All: 2.6% ± 0.6. In Chicago, 1.1% ± 0.1
  • Men: 4.0% ± 0.9. In Chicago, 1.6%, ±0.1
  • Women: 1.2% ± 0.6. In Chicago, 0.6% ±0.1

The shares in Evanston are significantly greater, but so are their margins of error. This is likely because the sample size in Evanston is much smaller than Chicago (1,219,311 workers aged 16 and older).

Other modes
  • Transit: 19.5% ± 1.4
  • Drive alone: 51.9% ± 1.8
  • Carpooled: 6.5% ± 1.0
  • Walked: 11.2% ± 1.4

Chicago has a higher transit share (26.6% ± 0.3), slightly lower drive alone share (50.9% ± 0.3), higher carpool share (10.0% ± 0.2), but a much lower walking share (5.8% ± 0.2)


  • Population: 73,880
  • Bike lanes: about 6.7 miles including the new Church Street cycle track
  • Lake shore path (not including every side path): about 2.2 miles*

The Active Transportation Alliance blog notes that the award will be presented to Evanston City Council on Monday, October 22, at 7 PM.

* This data comes from my personal geodatabase, which contains information I manually digitized from the Evanston city bike map (.pdf).

Update October 21, 2012: Chicago has a silver level designation, not gold. 

8 thoughts on “A quick look at bicycling in Evanston”

  1. In my experience, taking public transit out of Evanston (or into Evanston) feels inefficient and frustrating because you always have to transfer. The purple line and busses headed south come pretty far apart, especially when it’s not rush hour, and then you have to wait again at Howard. It makes a short trip take a fairly long time, and psychologically it’s just more frustrating than it would be if I were sitting on one bus the entire time. So that might explain the lower percentage of people who take public transit in Evanston.

  2. Evanston is an extremely easy place to bike, largely because there is a good grid street network and no major barriers. The additional lanes and paths help too. However, I think the mode shares for walking and biking are probably skewed by NU students, who make up a large percentage of the overall population.

  3. Thanks for the article. Just a point of clarification, Chicago has been designated as a silver bike-friendly community, not gold. This means that Evanston now has the same designation level as Chicago.

    1. Yes, Evanston & Chicago are ranked Silver, while the other 3 winners in Illinois are Bronze level Naperville, Schaumburg & Urbana. Illinois as a state is ranked 11th in the nation. Our closest Gold cities are to our north: Madison & Minneapolis.
      Interestingly, none of the Platinum winners (Portland, Davis & Boulder) are located east of the Rockies. We easterners & midwesterners need to catch up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *