By Charles Pekow
The state of bicycling in America leaves a lot to be desired, according to the latest biennial benchmarking report. The number of cyclists killed or mortally wounded while riding has increased by 14.7 percent since the first benchmarking report in 2007. And according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the share cyclists and pedestrians composed of the total number of traffic fatalities increased from 12.9 percent to 18.2 percent from 2007 to 2016, the latest year for which complete data are available.
This is highlighted in Bicycling & Walking in the United States: 2018 Benchmarking Report, released this spring by the League of American Bicyclists, which took over the project from the Alliance for Biking & Walking after they closed in 2016. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention funded the study (https://bikeleague.org/benchmarking-report).
The bad news doesn’t end there. The report tracks four chronic diseases it says can be controlled by exercise such as bicycling and walking: asthma, obesity, diabetes and hypertension. “Unfortunately, for each of these four chronic diseases, at least 42 states saw an increase in the prevalence of each disease over the course of the Benchmarking project,” the report says.
When it comes to biking to work, increases tended to be concentrated in a handful of cities. And no national surveys provide enough data to judge how many people bike to work in any given area. Census Bureau surveys on commuting tend to undercount the role of bicycling anyway, because they ask people about their primary mode – so if you ride your bike to the train station, you get counted as a train commuter, not a bike commuter. The League complains that the bureau hasn’t tried hard enough to improve data.
“Data present a pretty poor picture right now at the national level. Some states and cities are doing a good job,” League Policy Director Ken McLeod said at the group’s recent National Bike Summit. “We think biking hasn’t been increasing since 2014 but data are incomplete.”
On the plus side, however, the number of states with Complete Streets policies jumped from nine in 2007 to 34. Of the 50 largest cities,the number jumped from eight to 40. But it’s not clear how thorough the plans all or or how well they are implemented.