Bike-Ped Traffic, Funding, and Fatalities All Inch Upward

One day before President Obama’s State of the Union Address, the Alliance for Biking and Walking has released its 2012 Benchmarking Report. Once again, the report indicates, nonmotorized transportation is getting shortchanged by federal funders, while pedestrians and cyclists make up a disproportionately large share of all traffic fatalities.

Pedestrians and cyclists make up a disproportionate number of traffic deaths in America, while federal funds to make walking and biking safer are disproportionately low. Image: Alliance for Biking & Walking

The Alliance looks at all 50 states, and 51 of the nation’s largest cities, in its biannual benchmarking process. The report assesses bike-ped travel, traffic safety, and federal funding, as well as planning and policy initiatives like statewide bicycle plans and pedestrian advisory committees.

The bottom line is a mix of encouraging trends tempered by enduring inequalities. The share of all trips made by walking or biking has actually increased, from 9.6 percent to 12 percent, since the publication of the previous benchmarks in 2010. Even the share of federal funding for bike and pedestrian projects has inched upwards by half a percentage point. However, that federal funding share is still disproportionately low (only 1.6 percent), and equates to just $2.17 per capita nationwide.

Furthermore, the bike-ped share of traffic fatalities has actually increased, from 13 percent to 14, over the past two years. This echoes the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data recently published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. NHTSA announced last month that fatality rates are decreasing among motor vehicle occupants, and even among cyclists, but increased for pedestrians in 2010. Whatever new safety benefits are currently benefiting people behind the wheel, they haven’t extended to pedestrians.

The Alliance’s report arrives at a time when Congress is still in the midst of crafting a new surface transportation law. SAFETEA-LU, the current law that’s already been extended eight times, is set to expire again in 69 days, and will either have to be replaced or re-extended by then. (Interestingly enough, the 2010 report was published shortly after SAFETEA-LU expired for the first time.) Programs like Transportation Enhancements, the source for many of those precious few bike-ped dollars, have already proven to be a sticking point in negotiations.

While Congress draws out the reauthorization process, the Alliance report offers insights into what states and cities have accomplished in the meantime. The state leaders in bike-ped policy are unchanged from 2010, with one exception: Virginia has been supplanted by its neighbor to the north, Maryland, as the state with the lowest per-capita bike-ped funding. You can see more leaders and laggards after the jump, or read the full report here.

  • Share of commuters who walk: Alaska at No. 1, Alabama at No. 50
  • Share of commuters who bike: Oregon at No. 1, Alabama at No. 50
  • Bike-ped fatality rates: Vermont has the lowest, Florida has the highest
  • Per-capita bike-ped funding: Maryland has the lowest, Alaska has the highest

In terms of cities, the report assessed the nation’s 50 largest cities, plus New Orleans (which is not the 51st largest city, but was included for the sake of continuity with the 2007 and 2010 benchmarking reports).

  • Share of commuters who walk: Boston at No. 1, Fort Worth at No. 51
  • Share of commuters who bike: Portland, OR at No. 1, San Antonio at No. 51
  • Bike-ped fatality rates: Boston has the lowest, Forth Worth has the highest
  • Per-capita bike-ped funding: New York City has the lowest, Washington, DC has the highest