Who's Biking/Walking in Your State and City?

March 3, 2010

Getting people to drive less and bike and walk more often is a key strategy in public policies aimed at curbing a host of ills: traffic congestion, climate change, obesity, and more. How does your state or city measure up in terms of biking and walking?

The Alliance for Biking and Walking recently published its second biennial report, "Walking and Biking in the US 2010." It's mainly a recitation of statistics, but it's a highly useful source of leads and context for transit-related stories. Press: 202-449-9692, email.

This nearly 200-page report analyzes biking and pedestrian data from a variety of sources in every state and 50 major cities. It presents detailed rankings and analysis on "input" benchmarks: policy, programs, advocacy. It also examines "outcome" benchmarks: "mode share" (relative popularity of transit modes), safety, and public health.

Currently the vast majority of Americans (92%) routinely drive their cars to work — only about 3% commute by walking, 5% by bike, and just under 5% use public transit. Slightly more Americans bike to work than in 2007, and slightly fewer walk to work.

Safety for pedestrians and cyclists is worth examining: "While just 8.7% of trips in the U.S. are by foot and 0.9% are by bicycle, 11.3% of traffic fatalities are pedestrians and 1.8% are bicyclists," said the report. The most dangerous states for bikers/walkers are FL, SC, and AL; the most dangerous cities are Jacksonville, FL; and Dallas and Ft. Worth, TX. Bikers/walkers are safest in the states of VT, NE, AK; and in these cities: Kansas City, Boston, and Minneapolis.

WHO'S BIKING? The report states: "Bicycle and pedestrian commuters are generally distributed proportionately among ethnic groups in the U.S. ... . Hispanics are slightly more likely to bicycle or walk to work and Asians are more likely to walk to work than other ethnic groups. Greater disparities are found among genders. While among pedestrian commuters, 54% are male and 46% are female, among bicycle commuters, 77% are male and only 23% are female. A look at age reveals that while walking is generally distributed proportionately among age groups, youth under age 16 make up the majority of bicycle trips. This age group makes up just 24% of the U.S. population, but accounts for 58% of bicycling trips."

The report offers a detailed rundown and comparison of state and city policies, programs, and facilities for biking and walking. This yields some odd tidbits, such as: Las Vegas has the dual distinction of the most bike/pedestrian facilities per square mile, AND the greatest growth in bicycle fatalities in the last two years. (In both cases, Las Vegas' numbers were nearly double that of the #2 city, San Francisco).