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New bike commuters hit the classroom, then the road

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In the Bay State, MassBike reports offering two dozen classes this year, compared with three the year before.

The trend slips under the radar of national data, but phone calls to various city governments reveals a strong uptick in bike commuting this year:

• Bike count tallies showed an increase of 30 percent over last year on San Francisco's Market Street, 44 percent over 2006 levels at the intersection of Broad and Chestnut Streets in Philadelphia, and 378 percent from five years ago on Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago.

• New bikers are maxing out the capacity of transit systems across the country. Bikers boarding buses in Houston rose from 1,510 in April to 3,624 in June, according to the League of American Bicyclists, which also reports that Charlotte's bike-on-bus boardings have reached an all-time record, surging 30 percent this June from a year ago. On San Francisco's regional CalTrain, a quarter of rush hour trains surveyed in September "bumped" bikers because onboard racks had reached capacity.

• In Denver, this year's 'Bike to Work Day' drew 35,000 bikers, up 43 percent over last year.

High gas prices are changing transportation habits. For eight straight months, Americans have driven fewer miles than they did over the same period a year earlier, according to the US Department of Transportation.

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