8 Fascinating Facts about Bicycling and Walking in the United States

 

2. There are lower bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities where there are more people are biking and walking.

Generally speaking, bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities constitute a smaller percentage of roadway deaths in cities where there are more people who bike and walk to work. This makes a lot of sense: bike and walk fatalaties tend to happen in crashes with vehicles, and drivers are more likely to operate carefully and safely around walkers and bikers when they're used to seeing people walking and biking.

In the graph below, orange dots represent bicyclist fatality rates -- i.e., the number of people who have died while biking as a portion of the number of people who bike to work. The grey line indicates the percentage of the population who bikes to work, and the green line shows correlation between the two. 

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Here's the same graph with pedestrian fatalities and walking levels. 

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So if a city wants to reduce biking and walking fatalities, a good step would be to encourage more people to bike and walk. 

3. More people tend to bike or walk to work when a city has strong biking and walking advocacy.

As a coalition of state and local biking & walking advocacy organizations, we’ve seen the number of grassroots groups working on this issue grow dramatically. In 1996, there were just a handful of state and local biking and walking advocacy organizations, employing about 10 full time staff. In 2014, there are over 230 state and local biking and walking advocacy organizations, employing over 500 full time staff. 

Put more simply, these days we're seeing a growing number of concerned citizens organizing for safer, more accessible streets for walking and bicycling. The efforts are getting more sophisticated, too. 

The Benchmarking Report reveals the hard data behind the effectiveness of the safer streets movement. There is a positive correlation between the number of people who bike and walk to work in a city and the incomes and staff sizes of those cities’ biking & walking advocacy organizations. 

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Strong advocacy means strong active commuting!

4. People are healthier in states where more people bike and walk.

Getting more people out on the street biking and walking means more people meeting daily recommendations for physical activity. There's a relationship between a state population's physical activity levels and its levels of bicycling and walking. 

In the below graph, orange dots represent the percentage of the population currently meeting recommended weekly physical activity levels. The grey line represents levels of bicycling and walking to work, and the green line shows the trend. 

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Accordingly, the states where fewer people have diabetes also tend to be the states where more people bike and walk. Note the reverse correlation in this graph: 

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5. A large percentage of commuters bike and walk to work in Alaska, Oregon, Montana, New York, and Vermont.

Not so much in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas.

Here’s a map of bicycling and walking levels by state across the country:

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6. Biking and walking fatality rates have been decreasing for decades -- but are seeing a recent uptick.

Fatality rates for bicyclists and walkers are on the decrease overall. But disturbingly, we've seen slight upticks in the last several years. 

Here's a chart showing the bike fatality rate from 1980 to 2010: 

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And a chart showing the pedestrian fatality rate over the same time period: 

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7. Few federal dollars go towards bicycling and walking, compared to trips taken and fatality rates. 

Unfortunately, this is not a new statistic, but it holds true today.

There's a significant disparity between walking and biking modeshare (i.e. the percentage of trips that are taken by bike or on foot), walking and biking fatalities as a portion of all on-road fatalities, and federal funding for walking and biking. This chart illustrates that disparity. 

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Congress tends to fund roadway infrastructure rather than sidewalks, crosswalks, and bike lanes.

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8. More and more cities are setting goals to increase biking & walking and improve safety. 

Here’s some good news: our state and local governments want to help us walk and bike more.

This makes a lot of sense. Public health improvements depend in a big way on increasing levels of physical activity. Plus, most city and state populations are growing, but land mass size is staying the same. Making all modes of transportation safe and accessible will better accommodate higher population densities.

This chart shows which states have committed to plans to boost biking and walking levels and improve safety. 

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