Research Rest-Stop │ Current Bicycling and Walking Trends in the United States

Every Wednesday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) highlights some interesting research related to or innovations in transportation, sustainability, or energy.


In “Bicycling and Walking in the United States: 2012 Benchmarking Report,” a new report released by the Alliance for Bicycling & Walking, all 50 states and the 51 largest U.S. cities are ranked on elements like bicycling and walking levels, safety, and funding.

The report finds that promoting bicycling and walking serves as a good way to reduce obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes levels. Increased rates of bicycling and walking also support better bicycle and pedestrian safety and more physical activity. Encouraging bicycling and walking through local initiatives and policies can help communities improve the overall quality of life for their residents. While progress is happening, there is still room to expand these efforts.

The report notes that, while bicycling and walking rates are growing, most of the trips in the United States are still made by car. From 1990 to 2009, the percent of commuters who bike to work grew to 0.6%, while the percent of commuters who walked decreased to 2.9%. According to the 2009 National Household Travel Survey, 1.0% of all trips made by Americans are by bicycle and 10.5% of all trips can be considered walking trips. These statistics demonstrate that, at a national level, the rates of bicycling and walking are relatively low. Travel by automobile continues to be Americans’ most popular choice.

In major U.S. cities, however, the rates of bicycling and walking are growing quickly. The report mentions that “residents of major U.S. cities are 1.7 times more likely to walk or bicycle to work than the national average.” As part of its analysis, the Alliance provides a ranking of major U.S. cities and their bicycling and walking levels. According to the report, the top ten cities with the highest bicycling and walking levels are as follows:

  1. Boston
  2. Washington, DC
  3. San Francisco
  4. Seattle
  5. New York
  6. Portland, OR
  7. Minneapolis
  8. Philadelphia
  9. Honolulu
  10. New Orleans

The report points out that Philadelphia is also leading the way in many other categories. Here’s a brief breakdown of where Philadelphia ranks among other cities in the nation:

  •  Ranked in the top five among cities with high walk scores, which are awarded according to how pedestrian-friendly a city is
  • Ranked in the top five among cities for bicycle facilities per square mile
  • Named as one of the top six cities for the number of commuters who walk to work and one of the top twelve cities for the number of people who bike to work
  • One of the top ten safest cities in the nation for bicyclists and pedestrians
  • Among the top twenty cities for the amount of funding dedicated to bicycling and pedestrian programs on a per capita basis

As Philadelphia looks to expand its bicycle network and encourage policies that promote use of the streets for all users, including bicyclists, pedestrians, and drivers, these numbers have the potential to grow. With recent pilots along 10th Street and 13th Street, MOTU is working to encourage bicycle trips and expand and enhance the city’s bicycle network. In addition, MOTU is promoting pedestrian-friendly initiatives such as its Parklets and Pedestrian Plaza programs.

To learn more about MOTU’s initiatives, check out our website. If you’re interested in finding out more about Philadelphia’s bicycle network, be sure to visit the Streets Department website, which provides information about bicycle routes and bike maps of Philadelphia and Center City.


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