Today, the Federal Highway Administration is releasing "The National Biking and Walking Study: a 15-year Status Report." This study, by the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, discusses trends and outcomes in bicycling and walking since 1994. I think the news is pretty good.
First and foremost, Americans are hitting the sidewalks and streets on foot and by pedal in record numbers. From 1990 to 2009, the number of trips taken on foot more than doubled from 18 billion to 42.5 billion. Similarly, the number of bike trips increased from 1.7 billion to 4 billion.
Now, the original goal of The National Biking and Walking Study submitted in 1994 was to "double the percentage of total trips made by bicycling and walking from 7.9% to 15.8% of all travel trips."
In transportation circles, we call that percentage "mode share," and any planner will tell you that doubling mode share is an ambitious goal. But it turns out that we're getting there.
According to the 2009 National Household Travel Survey, bicycling and walking now account for 11.9% of all trips. It's not the 15.8% we hoped to see, but--considering the increase in population and overall number of trips--it's progress.
Even better, the safety data is also promising. From 1994 to 2008, the number of pedestrians killed decreased by 22.3% and the number of bicyclists killed decreased by 12%. Since the number of trips taken on foot or on bike has more than doubled in the same period, those declines are a good sign of increased safety.
Also, even as the percentage of all trips taken on foot or on bicycle has increased in the same period, the number of bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities as a percentage of all traffic fatalities has dropped. Again, not only have bicycling and walking gained in mode share, but they've also gained in relative safety.
But, we are still talking about 4,378 pedestrians and 716 bicyclists killed in 2008. No matter how we look at the data, that is just too many.
I don't think I need to remind readers that safety is DOT's highest priority. As FHWA Administrator Victor Mendez said, "We are proud of the work we’ve done to integrate walking and bicycling into people’s transportation options, but we won’t stop working until we find ways to prevent fatalities."
And that's why we're working so hard to help create Complete Streets, ensure Safe Routes to School, and develop Livable & Sustainable Communities.
In 1994, when the first National Biking and Walking Study was sent up to Congress, the report identified five categories of benefits from non-motorized transportation:
- Health benefits
- Transportation efficiency benefits
- Environmental & energy benefits
- Economic benefits
- Quality of life benefits
Times have changed in 15 years--it's true--but these benefits only seem more important today.
Americans want and need safe alternatives to driving. And by making biking and walking safer and more accessible, we’ll be able to provide Americans with more choices and help foster more active, more sustainable, and--yes--more livable communities.
That's why we recently announced a policy change that encourages transportation agencies to go beyond minimum standards and provide safe and convenient facilities for pedestrians and bicyclists.
That's why we've partnered with HUD and EPA in President Obama's Interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities.
And that's why we're making sure that, as we plan for the future, biking and walking get a seat at the table.