Seattle, WA – Jan. 23, 2012 – Washington ranks tenth as a safe place to bike and fourteenth for pedestrian safety ranking behind North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska, according to a new report, Bicycling and Walking in the United States: 2012 Benchmarking Report, released today by the Alliance for Biking & Walking.“
This report comes at a critical moment as Governor Gregoire has just proposed a state transportation package of $3.6 billion that dedicates 72 percent to roads, only 4 percent to transit, and lacks funding for the popular Safe Routes to Schools Program or locally-requested state bicycle and pedestrian safety projects.
The Benchmarking Report highlights that while 4.5% of work trips in Washington state are by bicycle or foot, bicyclists and pedestrians account for 13.6% of traffic fatalities in Washington state. Much of the Washington state and Seattle data for the report was provided by the Bicycle Alliance of Washington, a state partner to the national coalition of over 200 organizations.
Lack of investment in bicycling and walking could be to blame as state and federal monies fall short of the choices that Washington residents make in how they get around. For biking and walking, the state currently allocates 2.7% of what it receives in federal monies and the state itself assigns less than 0.5% of its transportation budget to the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety and Safe Routes to School Programs.
“The 2012 Benchmarking report points to the growing need for improved safety and mobility for the many residents who walk and bike. We are optimistic that the proposed transportation package can be improved to include investments in Safe Routes to Schools and other popular safety programs that residents across the state want,” says Blake Trask, Bicycle Alliance state policy director.
Since the Safe Routes to School Program’s inception in 2005, the Bicycle Alliance has worked with several partners, as well as the Washington State Department of Transportation and Office of the Superintendant of Public Instruction to increase the number of children safely walking and biking to 168 schools across the state. Program delivery at these schools has, and continues to improve walking and biking conditions for approximately 67,000 children. This represents almost $29 million being awarded to 90 projects from over $137 million in requests. Currently four out of every five requests for schools are not funded.
As a part of its advocacy for safer streets for everyone, the Bicycle Alliance is promoting state legislation to remove red tape and provide cities and towns the freedom to set speed limits to 20 miles per hour on non-arterial streets without a costly engineering and traffic study. This legislation, SHB 1217 – the Neighborhood Safe Speeds Bill, does not mandate any change, it simply provides cities and towns the local control to do so.
The report compiles persuasive evidence that bicycle and pedestrian projects create more jobs than highway projects, and provide at least three dollars of benefit for every dollar invested. The report also highlights the health benefits of active transportation, showing that states with the highest rates of bicycling and walking are also among those with the lowest rates of obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure. “The data points to one conclusion—investing in biking and walking projects create jobs, leads to more people biking and walking, and improves safety and public health,” says Jeffrey Miller, Alliance President/CEO.
Despite the ongoing need, the Benchmarking Report also calls out the progress that Washington state has made in growing bicycling and walking. “Washingtonians have responded to the improvements in safety and infrastructure that state and local government have made over the past 20 years by biking and walking more,” Trask notes. In 1990, 13,170 Washingtonians identified themselves as bike commuters. That number grew to 28,395 in 2009—a 116% increase. The number of people who walk to work in our state grew by 14% during that same time period. In the same period nationally, biking experienced a 64% increase while walking declined by 12%.
The Benchmarking Report includes data on the 51 largest US cities, which included Seattle. Highlights from the report include
- Seattle ranked fourth among the large cities nationwide with a commuter mode split of 11.5% who bike and walk to work. Boston was tops with a combined 15.4% biking and walking mode share.
- Despite its high ranking for walking and biking mode share, Seattle ranked sixth as a safe place to walk and twelfth among 51 large cities as a safe place to bike. According to the report, safer cities to bike include San Francisco, Portland, Minneapolis, Sacramento, and Milwaukee.
“Bicycling and Walking in the U.S.: 2012 Benchmarking Report” was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and made possible through additional support from AARP and Planet Bike. For more information and to download the report visit www.PeoplePoweredMovement.org/benchmarking.
Statewide Policy Director
Bicycle Alliance of Washington
Alliance for Biking & Walking