Popularity of Bicycling and Walking Rising in U.S. by City and State

-Posted On February 16, 2012 In Bicycle Accidents-

A recent study just came out regarding the statistics on bicycle riding and walking city by city and state by state in the U.S.

Living in the usually sunny (not today) San Francisco Bay Area I cannot imagine what it’s like to bike or walk to work in Alaska–the state ranked with the highest number of bicycle and pedestrian commuters–as that seems cold. But maybe driving in snowy conditions is just too dangerous in Alaska so they make everything very close. I remember one town in Alaska had all of the apartments and the stores and the other businesses all in one large building so no one would have to drive in the Winter. And Alaska has more private pilots than any other state so that may factor in.

As cycling commuters, we San Franciscans are doing pretty well in the national statistics, as the eighth lowest U.S. city for fatalities, and with California as ranking number 19 for bicycle commuters. There is room for improvement though for San Francisco according to the Bicycling and Walking in the United States: 2012 Benchmarking Report, released by the Alliance for Biking & Walking.

The statistics analyze commuting by cycling and walking in the U.S. As a San Francisco Pedestrian and Bicycle Accident Attorney, specializing in bicycle and pedestrian safety, I’m interested in the state by state comparison on how safe the commutes are, and where the transportation funding goes to help promote these more eco friendly means of local travel.

Walk_and_Bike_Everyday_photo_thumbWhat do the people of San Francisco need to do in order to match Boston’s highest level of cycling and walking commuters, and Portland’s highest level of cycling commuters? How can the City of San Francisco improve as a bicycle and walk friendly locale? Is San Francisco following in Los Angeles’s footsteps with a grand plan for creating new city bike lanes? I would like to see the city of San Francisco compete with Alburquerque, New Mexico’s 14.5% budget allocation to bicycling and walking. Using the above report as a tool, I think that San Franciscans can learn what works best to promote more bicycling and walking.

Despite the cited report’s indication that from 2000 to 2009, bicycle commuting in the U.S. rose by 57%, bicycle and pedestrian fatalities, of course, are a very large concern for me. We know that it can be dangerous out there for those who travel by bike or foot: 12% of trips in the U.S. are taken via cycling or walking, but 14% of those involved in fatal traffic accidents are bicyclists and pedestrians. This means that bicycling and walking are statistically slightly more risky for fatality than driving.

I think if we add the injuries suffered by bicyclists and pedestrians short of death, the statistics would show even greater danger. That does not mean that bicycling or walking is too risky though. It just means that if you get hit by a car, in a car, you may just have a fender bender. But, if you get hit by a car, on a bike, or walking in a crosswalk, you are likely to be hurt, or worse.

As a health-conscious individual myself I am encouraged by the reports that link obesity to a drop in physical activity. It’s no joke that between 1966 and 2009, the number of children who biked or walked to school dropped 75%, while the percentage of obese children rose 276%. If you are constantly on the go, physically exercising for work, school and recreation, you will no doubt be more physically fit. If you bicycle or walk to school or work you are less likely to end up obese.

That said, while bicycling and walking are statistically slightly more dangerous, being obese leads to other health issues that claim many lives across the country. So, how do we make bicycling and walking more attractive? I think if we make them safer, then bicycling and walking will be more popular.

As a bicycle attorney and a pedestrian attorney I seek to make people or companies accountable when they needlessly endanger bicyclists or pedestrians and when that conduct results in injuries to a bicyclist or a pedestrian. Those are just the rules of the road, and fairness requires making rule breakers responsible for the harm that they cause. But, the public sector needs to help with bicycle safety and pedestrian safety by working on a safer infrastructure.

Let’s look at a city in southern California: Long Beach. I had the chance to visit there recently so I completely concur with the findings that Long Beach, CA, the most bicycle-friendly city in america, holds true. The more bicycle lanes built, the more bicycle riders show up. It’s been proven in Long Beach, where a focused effort is underway to modify city streets to encourage bicycling to become a viable day-to-day transportation option in and around the city. The transformation has been rapid as the city has allocated more than $20 million for bike-related projects, adding new bike routes to city streets, building protected bike lanes, painting shared lanes, and installing the signage, signaling and parking necessary.

Cycling and walking increase public health, pump up local economies, and generally just make people feel good. I look forward to seeing you out there.

About the author: Claude Wyle is an aggressive advocate for San Francisco Bay Area bicyclists and pedestrians. Claude has decades of experience representing those harmed by the wrongful conduct of others, and, as a San Francisco pedestrian and bicycle accident attorney, has fought to protect the rights of injured cyclists and pedestrians throughout his legal career. Claude is also an avid cyclist himself and member of the Marin County Bicycle Coalition, San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition and is a sponsor of Safe Routes to School. He is also a member and lecturer of EDD, a group dedicated to End Distracted Driving.

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