Today, the Federal Highway Administration released their 15-year status report on the National Biking and Walking Study, the third update to a 1994 federal assessment of bicycling and walking as transportation. The study—which shows some growth in bicycling and walking and decline in fatalities—is significant because it will impact the distribution of federal funding and the growth of pro-walking and biking initiatives like Complete Streets and Safe Routes to School.
The stated goal of the original National Biking and Walking study was to double the walking and biking mode share from 7.9 percent to 15.8 percent in the U.S. According to the 15-year status report, biking and walking has only increased to an 11.9 percent combined total. Biking only makes up a small part of that at 1 percent or around 4 billion trips annually (up from .7 percent in 1990).
The status report also showed a slight decrease in overall biking and walking fatalities and injuries during that period of growth. In 2008, pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities were down 22.3 and 12.0 percent, respectively, from their 1995 levels. Injuries for pedestrians and bicyclists were down 17.8 and 14.7 percent respectively. The report acknowledges that the number of injuries might be low due to underreporting of minor injuries and injuries sustained on multi-use paths.
Though nationally biking and walking account for 11.9 percent of trips taken, they received only two percent of federal transportation funding last year. Before that, biking and walking received less than one percent. The jump in funding was due in large part to the TIGER transportation grants distributed as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Though the growth in walking and biking was relatively small, it’s still important. The report highlights the disparity between the size of the walking and biking mode share and the percentage of federal funding. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood has already proven to be a proponent of “active transportation” with his pro-bicycling and walking policies. Now he needs to shift a proportional amount of funding to bicycling and walking to back up his policies and help non-motorized transportation grow.
There is a strong correlation between increased infrastructure and increased mode share. Bicycling infrastructure is cheap compared to car infrastructure, but that money still has to come from somewhere. A nine-percent increase in federal transportation funding would have a profound impact on the growth of bicycling and walking.