Written by Julian Ferguson, ECF, 26/1/2012
Cycling in New York City, cited by a recent report as spending only $0.03 per capita on bike and walking infrastructure: Credit: noa.cortes (Flickr)
There’s no denying that America has a huge potential to be a cycling nation. In 2009, 40% of trips in the United States were shorter than 2 miles, yet 87% of these trips are by car. A new report from ECF’s associate member, the Alliance for Biking & Walking, ranks all 50 states and the 51 largest U.S. cities on bicycling and walking levels. Despite progress, there’s still a long way to go…
America could really be a cycling continent. It’s a country with transport systems that are emulated the world over and to imagine the U.S. becoming a cycling nation would be every cycling advocate’s dream, even those living in Europe. Developing and developed countries often look to the US for guidance: in the past it’s been giant cars and trucks and sprawling interstates that have been reproduced from Beijing to Bucharest. Imagine if people began looking to the US for bicycle solutions?
This new report uses statistics from the U.S. Census, the American Community Survey (ACS), the National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), and other sources. There is nothing new in the way of stats, but they’ve been presented in a highly informative way.
Now for some of the key figures in the report:
In nearly every city and state, pedestrians and bicyclists are disproportionately at risk of being killed, and walking and cycling receive less than a fair share of transportation dollars. Only 1.6% of federal transportation funding goes to funding walking and cycling infrastructure. A similar problem is at hand in the EU: From 2007 until 2013, the Commission has earmarked €600 million for cycling infrastructure. That’s just 0.7% of an €82 billion fund. By contrast, road infrastructure receives some 47% of the EU’s transport infrastructure funds, which can be used to leverage national investment. Bicycle advocacy groups, such as ours, all calling for 10% of funding to be earmarked for cycling.
Increasing cyclists’ safety is not about putting helmets on heads. “Death by Design” can be a real killer for cyclists, and if funds are not earmarked for adequate infrastructure, then sadly, cyclist deaths will continue. (It should of course be remembered that cycling in itself is not a dangerous activity. In actually fact, you’ve got more chance being seriously injured as a motor vehicle occupant according to this Danish Study. According to the World Health Organisation, physical inactivity is also a killer.)
Scan the media for cycling, and popping up on the radar has been New York’s cycling revolution. Newspapers are full of stories about the Big Apple’s push for increased pedal power, with talk of a new bicycle share scheme and more on-road bicycle paths. It’s now time for Government to finance this long-awaited change. According to figures supplied by the study, New York City spends $0.03 per capita on biking and walking. Washington DC in comparison spends an approximate $9.82. The Dutch actually spend a whopping €30 ($39) a head. Unsurprisingly, New York City’s modal share sits below 1%, while the Netherlands has one third of all trips done by bicycle. The more money spent on cyclists, the more cyclists to hit the streets.
“The data points to one conclusion: Investing in biking and walking projects creates jobs, leads to more people biking and walking, and improves safety and public health,” says Jeffrey Miller, who heads the Alliance behind the report.
Indeed, it proves that the potential for cycling is huge in the US and is on the rise. From 2000 to 2009, bicycling commuters in the U.S. rose by 57%. If 40% of trips were less than two miles, but 87% of them were taken by car, then surely there’s a brilliant scope for more people to get on bicycles.