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Bicycling And Walking In The United States: 2012 Benchmarking Report

This is the third full report and builds upon the Alliance for Biking & Walking's previous efforts. Through the ongoing Benchmarking Project, the Alliance for Biking & Walking will publish an updated version of this report every two years.

Executive Summary

What isn't counted,doesn't count.

Government officials working to promote bicycling and walking need data to evaluate their efforts. In order to improve something, there must be a means to measure it. The Alliance for Biking & Walking's Benchmarking Proj­ect is an ongoing effort to collect and analyze data on bicycling and walkingin all 50 states and the 51 largest cities. This is the third biennial Benchmarking Report. The first report was published in 2007, the second in 2010, and the nextreport is scheduled for January 2014.


(1) Promote Data Collection and Availability

The Benchmarking Project aims to col­lect data from secondary sources (exist­ing databases) and to conduct surveysof city and state officials to obtaindata not collected by another nationalsource. A number of government and national data sources are collected and illustrated in this report. Through state and city biennial surveys, this project makes new data available in a standard­ized format that otherwise does not exist.

(2) Measure Progress and Evaluate Results

The Benchmarking Project aims to pro­vide data to government officials andadvocates in an accessible format that helps them measure their progress to­ward increasing bicycling and walking and evaluate the results of their efforts. Because the Benchmarking Project is ongoing, cities and states can measure their progress over time and will see the impacts of their efforts. By providing a consistent and objective tool for evalu­ation, organizations, states, and cities can determine what works and what doesn't. Successful models can be emu­lated and failed models reevaluated.

(3) Support Efforts to Increase Bicycling and Walking

This project will ultimately support the efforts of government officials and bicycle and pedestrian advocacyorganizations to increase bicycling and walking in their communities. Byproviding a means for cities and states to compare themselves to one another, this report will highlight successes, en­courage communities making progress, and make communities aware of areas where more effort is needed. By high­lighting the top states and cities, otherstates and cities will gain inspirationand best practice models. This report is intended to help states and communi­ties set goals, plan strategies, and evaluate results.

Data Collection

This report focuses on 50 states and the 51 largest U.S. cities. Most bicycling and walking is in urban areas, and because of short trip distances, the most poten­tial for increasing bicycling and walk­ing is in cities. Whenever possible, theAlliance collected data for this report directly from uniform government data sources. Researchers collected data that were not readily accessible from national sources through two surveys for cities and states. In October 2010, the Benchmarking Project team reached out to 50 states and 51 cities, utilizingthe staff of cities, state departments of transportation, metropolitan planning organizations, and advocacy organiza­tions to provide data for city and state surveys. The surveys complementedexisting government data sources to create a comprehensive reserve of data that evaluates multiple factors that af­fect bicycling and walking in cities and states.


Levels of Bicycling and Walking

From 1990 to 2009, the percent of com­muters who bicycle to work increased from 0.4% to 0.6% while the percent of commuters who walk to work de­creased from 3.9% to 2.9%. According to the 2009 American Community Survey (ACS), 3.4% of commuters nationwide are bicyclists (0.55%) or pedestrians (2.86%). Residents of major U.S. cities are 1.7 times more likely to walk or bi­cycle to work than the national average. According to the 2009 National House­hold Travel Survey (NHTS) 1.0% of all trips are by bicycle and 10.5% of all trips are by foot nationwide. It is diffi­cult to determine bicycling and walkingmode share for all trips at the state and city levels because of small sample sizes of NHTS.

Bicycle and pedestrian commuters are generally distributed proportion­ately among ethnic groups in the U.S., according to the 2009 ACS. Greater disparities are found among genders. According to the 2009 NHTS, 49% of walking trips are men and 51% are female, yet among bicycle trips, 76% are male and only 24% are female. A look at age reveals that while walking is gener­ally distributed proportionately among age groups, youth under age 16 make up 39% of bicycle trips. This age group accounts for just 21% of the population.


In 2009, 4,092 pedestrians and 630 bicy­clists were killed in traffic. This is down significantly from 2005 when 4,892 pe­destrians and 786 bicyclists were traffic fatality victims. While overall numbers of bicycle and pedestrian fatalities are declining, pedestrians and bicyclists are still at a disproportionate risk for being a victim of a traffic fatality. Although just 10.5% of trips in the U.S. are by foot and 1.0% are by bicycle, 11.7% of traffic fatalities are pedestrians and 1.8% are bicyclists. In major U.S. cities, 12.7% oftrips are by foot and 1.1% are by bicycle, yet 26.9% of traffic fatalities are pedes­trians and 3.1% are bicyclists.

According to the 2007-2009 Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and the 2009 NHTS, seniors are the most vulnerable age group. While adults over 65 make up 10% of walking trips and  6% of bicycling trips, they account for 19% of pedestrian fatalities and 10% of bicyclist fatalities.

Policies and Provisions

A number of policies and provisions are represented in this report including funding and staffing levels, infrastruc­ture, written policies, and bike-transit integration. This report marks a signifi­cant increase in planning for bicycling and walking over the last two years. Many states and cities have adopted new plans and goals to increase bicy­cling and walking and reduce fatali­ties. Overall, states and cities still rankpoorly for funding bicycling and walk­ing at a rate proportionate to active transportation levels.

Funding for Bicycling and Walking

2010 data from the Federal Highway Administration reveal that states spend just 1.6% of their federal transporta­tion dollars on bicycling and walking. This amounts to just $2.17 per capita for bicycling and walking. About 40% of these dedicated bicycle and pedestrian dollars are from the Transportation En­hancement (TE) program. The majority of TE funding (48%) goes toward build­ing bicycle and pedestrian facilities and to bicycle and pedestrian education.

Planning and Legislation

Since the 2010 Benchmarking Report, there has been a 63% increase in the number of states that have published goals to increase bicycling and walk­ing, and a 27% increase in the number of states that have published goals to reduce bicycle and pedestrian fatalities.

2011 League of American Bicyclist data on state legislation reveal that most states have basic bicyclists' rights legis­lation such as allowing bicyclists to le­gally ride two-abreast, signal right turns with their right hand, and to take a full traffic lane in the presence of a side path or bike lane. Twenty-one states have 3-foot passing laws that require motor­ists to pass bicyclists at a safe distance of at least three feet (up from 14 as of the 2010 Benchmarking Report).

A survey of other policies found that 19 (of the 51 largest) U.S. cities and 26 states have adopted complete streets policies that require streets be built to accommodate all potential road users. Nearly half of states report having a bicycle and pedestrian advisory com­mittee. And 38 states report having a publicly available bicycle map.

Cities were surveyed on a number of planning and policy initiatives. Forty-one cities report having a bicycle master plan, and 21 have a pedestrian master plan. Over half of cities have bicycle and pedestrian advisory committees.


City surveys examined current and planned bicycle and pedestrian infra­structure in order to benchmark the progress communities are making. Specifically, cities reported miles of bike lanes, bicycle routes, and multi-use paths. On average, cities have 1.8 miles of bicycle facilities (bike lanes, multi­use paths, and signed bicycle routes) per square mile—a 29% increase since the 2010 Benchmarking Report.

While implementation of innovative facilities such as bicycle boulevards and colored bike lanes is low, surveys indicated that there are new projects currently being implemented or in the process of approval. The number of cities that report having implemented innovative facilities has increased sig­nificantly in the last two years. Seventy-three percent of cities now report hav­ing implemented sharrows, or shared lane markings.

Bike-Transit Integration

Bike-transit integration has proved to be a vital aspect of effective bicycle systems. The report analyzes responses from city and state surveys, as well as American Public Transportation As­sociation (APTA) data, to see how well cities are integrating bicycle systems with transit. Forty-four cities report that 100% of their bus fleet have bicycle racks, a 19% increase over the past two years. Major U.S. cities report an aver­age of 2.5 bicycle parking spaces at bus stops for every 10,000 residents.

Education and Encouragement

Education and encouragement pro­grams at the state and city level are effective ways to inform the public and promote bicycling and walking. Infor­mation from state and city surveys and the National Center for Safe Routes to School illustrates the growth in bicycle and pedestrian education in communi­ties. National Walk and Bike to School Day is a popular encouragement activ­ity with growing school participation nationwide.

Thirty-eight cities report having youth bicycle education courses and 41 have adult courses. Youth education is a vital area of outreach because it has the potential to influence the habits of the next generation. The number of youth who participate in bicycle education courses in cities increased by 31% from two years ago. Surveys indicate a 40%increase in adult participation levels for bicycle educational courses over the last two years.

League of American Bicyclists' data indicate that almost all states (49) have information on bicycling in their statedriver's manual, yet just 32 states have questions on bicycling on their state driver's exam. The majority of states (38) have a "Share the Road" or simi­lar public safety campaign. Seventeen states report sponsoring a statewide ride to promote bicycling or physical activity.

The Alliance also collected data on pro­fessional education regarding bicycling and walking. Overall, these efforts are growing among states, but there is still great room for improvement. Only 20 states have bicycle enforcement as a po­lice academy requirement. And, just 25 states report having hosted a statewide bicycle and pedestrian conference.

Cities were also surveyed on encouragement activities including presence of and participation levels in Bike to Work Day events, open street/ciclovia initia­tives, and city-sponsored bicycle rides. Bike to Work Day is the most common encouragement event with 43 cities participating with an average of oneparticipant for every 286 adults. Thirty-two cities sponsor rides to promote bicycling or physical activity with an average of one participant for every 350 residents. Twenty-one cities have open street (car-free or ciclovia) initiatives with an average of one participant for every 37 residents.

Cycling and Walking Advocacy

Advocacy organizations have the potential to influence bicycling and walking in the communities they serve by advocating for and winning new policies, funding, infrastructure, and programs. The number of Alliance state and local bicycle and pedestrian advo­cacy organizations has been increasing steadily since the Alliance was founded in 1996. This report measures organi­zation capacity of Alliance member organizations and sets standards for membership, revenue, staffing, and media exposure. Results from Alliance organization surveys vary widely be­cause of the great variation in maturity and operations of these organizations as well as the communities they serve. Some organizations in this report are decades old while others were founded not long before these surveys were collected.

Surveys indicate that organizations serving cities earn significantly more per capita than their statewide coun­terparts. Local organizations earn an average of $0.15 per resident served while statewide organizations earn just $0.03 per resident. In general, organiza­tion revenue is diversified, coming from membership and donations, events, fees, grants, contracts, and the bicycle industry. Local Alliance organizations also have much higher per capita mem­bership levels averaging one member per 1,522 residents. Statewide organiza­tions have an average of one memberper 4,975 residents. Similarly, statewide organizations operate with an average of 0.4 full-time-equivalent staff (FTE) per million residents served. Organiza­tions serving cities average 2.2 FTE staff per million residents.

Factors Influencing Bicycling and Walking

Analysis in this report shows several positive relationships between bicycling and walking rates and safety, advocacy capacity, density, and car ownership. While weather does not appear to be afactor that directly influences bicycling levels, density, advocacy capacity, and car ownership are a few factors that ap­pear to influence bicycling and walking trips.

ACS and FARS data indicate a posi­tive correlation between bicycling and walking levels and safety. In line with previous studies, an increase in walking and bicycling levels is strongly related to increased bicyclist and pedestrian safety.

Public Health Benefits

To see how bicycling and walking influence public health, the Alliance compared public health data to bicy­cling and walking levels. Data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) and ACS reflect a direct relationship between levels of bicycling and walking and several public health indicators. Data suggest that the risk for such health problems as obesity, diabetes, asthma, and hypertension will decrease with more bicycling and walk­ing. States with lower bicycling and walking levels on average have higher levels of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and asthma. States with higher levels of bicycling and walking also have a greater percentage of adults who meet the recommended 30-plus minutes of daily physical activity. This suggests that increasing bicycling and walking can help achieve public health goals of increasing physical activity and lower­ing rates of overweight and obesity.

Economic Benefits

To see how bicycling and walking influ­ence the economic strength of commu­nities, the Alliance surveyed numerous studies and data sources. Evidence suggests that bicycling and walkingprojects create 11-14 jobs per $1 million spent, compared to just 7 jobs created per $1 million spent with highway projects. Surveys show that facilities for bicycling and walking attract tour­ists, event participants, and business. In addition bicycling and walking are af­fordable investments that save commut­ers money and in turn equate to more money available for local economies.

Studies that have performed cost/ben­efit analysis on bicycling and walking facilities have found that these facili­ties have significant benefit for public health, traffic congestion, and air qual­ity. The cost benefit ratio of Portland, OR's bicycle investments, looking at just health and fuel savings, ranged from 3.8-to-1 to 1.3-to-1.


While many state and local communi­ties are making sufficient efforts to promote bicycling and walking, much more work needs to be done. Barriers in staffing and funding remain a consis­tent limitation to promoting bicycling and walking. Bicycling and walking make up 11.5% of all trips, and 13.5% of traffic fatalities, and yet receive just 1.6% of federal transportation dollars.

The proven environmental, economic, and personal health benefits that bicy­cling and walking offer are evidence that increasing bicycling and walk­ing levels are in the public good, yet a much greater investment is needed throughout the U.S. This Benchmarking Report identifies which cities and statesare leading the way and provides links to resources (Appendix 5) from these communities.

The Alliance recommends that govern­ment officials and advocates take the time to evaluate their efforts to promote bicycling and walking. This report can be used by communities to see how they measure up, to identify role mod­els, and to set new goals. Continued benchmarking and improvements in the availability of data will strengthen the report in the coming years, and lend a better understanding of the factors that influence bicycling and walking. Ulti­mately, by providing a tool for commu­nities to consistently measure progress, evaluate results, and set new targets, this report will advance efforts for a more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly America.