New Report Ranks Cities and States on Bicycling and Walking

23 Jan

The Alliance for Biking & Walking, a non-profit coalition made up of 180 member organizations across the country, released its 2012 Benchmarking Report today. Full of statistics and charts, the 243 page report provides a window into our nation’s progress in promoting non-motorized transportation; and the numbers — on everything from the economic to health benefits of bicycling — make a compelling case for more investment. The report was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (along with support from AARP and Planet Bike) and it focuses on all 50 states and the 51 largest U.S. cities. The report uses existing government data from the U.S. Census, the American Community Survey (ACS), the National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), and other sources.

As the group’s press release states, the report comes at a critical moment, as Congress is looking to pass the next federal transportation bill. “The Benchmarking Report reveals that, in nearly every city and state, pedestrians and bicyclists are disproportionately at risk of being killed, and currently receive less than a fair share of transportation dollars. While 12 percent of trips in the U.S. are by bike or foot, 14 percent of traffic fatalities are bicyclists and pedestrians. Pedestrian and bicycle projects receive less than 2 percent of federal transportation dollars.”

New Jersey’s own Rutgers professor and bicycling and walking advocate John Pucher is quoted in the release too, noting, “The wide range of environmental, social, and economic benefits of walking and bicycling, so clearly documented in this report, justify greatly increased investment in facilities and programs to encourage more walking and cycling, and to improve the safety of these most sustainable of all transportation modes.”

The overarching conclusion of the report is that increasing bicycling and walking are goals that are in the public interest. Where bicycling and walking levels are higher, obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes levels are lower. Higher levels of bicycling and walking also coincide with increased bicycle and pedestrian safety and higher levels of physical activity.

The report also finds that:

  • People on bikes make up 1.8% of all traffic fatalities
  • In 2009, 40% of trips in the United States were shorter than 2 miles, yet 87% of these trips are by car. Twenty-seven percent of trips were shorter than 1 mile. Still, Americans use their cars for 62% of these trips.
  • While bicycling and walking fell 66% between 1960 and 2009, obesity levels increased 156%.
  • Seniors are “the most vulnerable bicyclists and pedestrians”… This age group accounts for 6% of bicycling trips, yet 10% of bicyclist fatalities.
  • Bicycling and walking projects create 11-14 jobs per $1 million spent, compared to just 7 jobs created per $1 million spent on highway projects.
  • Cost benefit analysis show that up to $11.80 in benefits can be gained for every $1 invested in bicycling and walking.

The report makes the case for increased investment in walking and biking infrastructure and safety programs by showing that the United States has significant disparities between bicycling and walking mode share, safety, and funding. Twelve percent of trips are by bicycle or foot, yet bicyclists and pedestrians make up 14% of traffic fatalities and receive just 1.6% of federal transportation dollars. An international comparison of bicycle funding and mode share demonstrates that international cities that invest greater amounts per capita in bicycling have greater levels of bicycling. These cities provide strong evidence that in order to increase bicycling and walking, the United States must invest significantly more in these modes.

Furthermore, the report discusses in depth how biking and walking can improve public health and the economy: the countries and cities with the greatest levels of bicycling and walking are also the safest places to bicycle and walk and also have the lowest levels of obesity, and bicycling and walking projects create 11-14 jobs per $1 million spent, compared to just 7 jobs created per $1 million spent on highway projects.

In the state-by-state comparisons, New Jersey doesn’t fare as well as we’d like. It takes 23rd out of 50 in levels of biking and walking; it ranks 31 out of 50 in bike/ped fatality rates (on this list, the #1 state, Vermont, has the lowest rate).

This report shows in an easy-to-understand format that increasing bicycling and walking are goals that are clearly in the public interest; we have to agree. Read the full report here; it’s well worth your time.

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