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This FHWA report documents National Trends in Bicycling and Walking, and some of the programs around the country that support bicycling and walking as safe and viable means of transportation.

arrow Download the full study with photos and charts (pdf 2.9 mb)

 

National Bicycling and Walking Study: 15–Year Status Report


photo of kids walking on trail

SAFETEA-LU established the Safe Routes to School Program
to encourage and enable children to safely walk and
bike to school.

Summary

This report is the third status update to the National Bicycling and Walking Study, originally published in 1994 as an assessment of bicycling and walking as transportation modes in the United States. Following the 5-year status report (1999) and 10-year status report (2004), the 15-year update measures the progress made toward the original goals of lowering the number of fatalities while increasing the percentage of trips made by bicycling and walking. Injury and fatality statistics are presented to measure this progress, as well as results from surveys related to travel habits.

The 15-year report, unlike its two predecessors, examines a range of efforts to increase bicycling and walking in the United States. Programs at the Federal, State, and local levels are included, as well as case studies on best practices. Finally, the report makes recommendations for research, policy, and other measures that can be taken to meet the goals of the original study.

Background

In 1990, bicycling and walking were described as “the forgotten modes” of transportation by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). These nonmotorized options had been overlooked by many Federal, State, and local agencies for years, even as others acknowledged their importance. Sources of funding were limited, with $6 million in federal funds spent on pedestrian and bicycle projects in 1990. Fewer than 4.4 percent of commuting trips in 1990 were made by bicycling and walking, down from 6.7 percent in 19801.

Though these modes comprised only a small share of trips, bicycle and pedestrian crashes accounted for more than 15 percent of traffic fatalities (4 and 11 percent, respectively). Recognizing the decline in walking and bicycling, and the rise in fatalities, the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) adopted the first national transportation policy in 1994 to “increase use of bicycling, and encourage planners and engineers to accommodate bicycle and pedestrian needs in designing transportation facilities for urban and suburban areas, and increase pedestrian safety through public information and improved crosswalk design, signaling, school crossings, and sidewalks.” These priorities represented a significant shift in the attention given to bicycling and walking.

Conclusions and Recommendations

In the 15 years since the publication of the National Bicycling and Walking Study, support for bicycling and walking has increased at the local, State, and Federal levels. Many agencies have recognized the importance of active transportation in fostering livable communities, and have responded by promoting these modes through infrastructure improvements and promotional programs and policy changes.

Progress has been made toward the two national goals of increasing nonmotorized activity while also decreasing injuries and fatalities. While the percentage of bicycling and walking trips has not doubled since 1994, available data have shown that increases have occurred. Other studies have indicated that substantial increases in investment in these modes, along with more comprehensive and robust methods for data collection, will provide further support for bicycling and walking in the United States.

Though the reductions in pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities have met the goals set forth in the original study, there is always room for improvement in the area of safety. Creating environments that are safe for bicyclists and pedestrians of all abilities should continue to be a top priority. Though challenging in the short term, it is also important to improve the process for reporting and documenting pedestrian and bicyclist crashes and injuries.

The DOT policy is to incorporate safe and convenient walking and bicycling facilities into transportation projects. Every transportation agency, including DOT, has the responsibility to improve conditions and opportunities for walking and bicycling and to integrate walking and bicycling into their transportation systems. Because of the numerous individual and community benefits that walking and bicycling provide — including health, safety, environmental, transportation, and quality of life — transportation agencies are encouraged to go beyond minimum standards to provide safe and convenient facilities for these modes.

In March 2010, the United States Department of Transportation reinforced the importance of this sustained commitment by issuing a Policy Statement on Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodation Regulations and Recommendations17. According to the Policy Statement:

Support for bicycling and walking has come a long way in the years since the original study was released in 1994. The original study envisioned “a nation of travelers with new opportunities to walk or ride a bicycle as part of their everyday life.” Sustained commitment to the original goals will help make this vision a reality.

The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center is funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration and maintained by the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center in cooperation with the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals.

arrow Download the full study with photos and charts (pdf 2.9 mb)

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