The “Bicycling and Walking in the United States: 2012 Benchmarking Report” was published by the Alliance for Biking and Walking on January 23rd. The report, which was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the AARP, and Planet Bike ranks the levels of bicycling and walking in every state and 51 of the largest cities in the USA, and outlines the progress and challenges bike and pedestrian advocates have. Overall, the Report shows that bicycling is at least getting more popular as a method of transportation; the number of commuters who bicycle to work increased by 57% from 2000 to 2009.
The Benchmarking Report tells us that the top five cities with the highest levels of cycling and walking are Boston, Washington DC, San Francisco, Seattle, and New York. The top five states for biking and walking are Alaska (surprise!), Vermont, New York, Montana, and Oregon. The safest include Vermont, Nebraska, Alaska, Wyoming, and South Dakota.
Areas for Improvement:
The biggest area for improvement is in the short trips Americans take. 40% of trips in the United States were shorter than two miles in 2009, and yet an overwhelming 87% of these trips were by car. 27% percent of trips were shorter than 1 mile, and yet Americans chose to use their cars for 62% of these trips. That is a great area of opportunity for saving money and increasing physical fitness. Back in 2011, Andrew wrote about a study in the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives reported that riding a bike and taking public transportation instead taking the car out for a short spin would result in saving about $7 billion annually, as well as 1,100 lives. There is no better, cheaper way to improve our transit systems and health issues than investing in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.
Another area for improvement is overall bicycle and pedestrian safety. Cycling and walking are increasingly safe, but still need a lot of work. In 2009, 4,092 pedestrians and 630 cyclists were killed in traffic accidents, down from 4892 pedestrians and 786 bicyclists in 2005. It’s a reduction, but not good enough.
Wouldn’t it have been nice if our legislators cared enough about bicyclists and pedestrians to research or at least read reports like this one before writing their poor piece of transportation legislation (aka the American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act)? The act eliminates funding for biking and pedestrians, discretionary transit programs, including programs like Safe Routes to School, a proven project that has helped reduce fatalities in children throughout our country.
Maybe the seniors will get out and vote against Rep. John Mica and other supporters of this bill in outrage once they see the figures in the report. Seniors account for the highest percentage of fatalities while walking and bicycling, which is disproportionate to how often they walk and bike. For example, adults over 65 make up 10% of walking trips, yet comprise 19% of pedestrian fatalities, and this age group accounts for 6% of bicycling trips, yet 10% of bicyclist fatalities.
Click here to view rankings of the 50 states and 51 largest U.S. cities.