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What Is Your State Doing to Improve Walking and Biking?

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How good are your state’s policies on walking and biking?

The Alliance for Biking and Walking has made it easy to find out with this at-a-glance chart, released as part of its biannual Benchmarking report this week.

According to the Alliance, state policies are getting progressively better for walking and biking. Now, 34 states publish goals to increase levels of active transportation. That’s up from 29 states just two years ago. Nearly every state — 44 — now sets goals to reduce pedestrian fatalities, and 43 states have set goals for bike fatalities. Even states that aren’t known for walking and biking seem to at least be talking the talk. The Alliance reports that Florida now has a policy aiming to get more people walking, and Nevada is trying to increase cycling.

Cities are getting with the program as well, the Alliance finds.

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Eyes on the Street: An Early Look at the Lafayette Protected Bike Lane

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Crews have been making good progress on the Lafayette Street redesign [PDF], the first protected bike lane project installed by the de Blasio administration. As of yesterday, the striping work had progressed from Spring Street up past 4th Street, where Philip Winn of Project for Public Spaces snapped these photos.

The Lafayette Street project will convert the northbound buffered bike lane into a protected lane from Prince to 12th Street. Some intersections will get pedestrian islands between the bike lane and motor vehicle lanes. DOT is really knocking this one out fast — Community Board 2 voted in favor of it less than a month ago. The redesign isn’t complete but people are already making good use of it:

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More Walking and Biking, Better Health: New Evidence From American Cities

States with higher rates of walking and biking to work tend to have lower rates of diabetes. Click to enlarge. All graphics: Alliance for Biking and Walking

New data from the Alliance for Biking and Walking’s 2014 Benchmarking report bears out the notion that people tend to be healthier in cities where walking and biking are more prevalent.

The Alliance compiled active commuting rates in the 50 largest American cities as measured by the U.S. Census. Then it compared that data with health information from the CDC. On health outcomes like diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure, a pretty clear correlation emerges.

Not all of it can be explained by active commuting, of course. But notice how, in the top chart, as statewide active transportation rates increase, diabetes rates decline.

About 9 percent of Americans have diabetes, but the incidence varies greatly between different places. Diabetes tracks closely enough with walk and bike commute rates that the Alliance and other researchers have concluded there’s a strong correlation.

Rates of elevated blood pressure display a similar pattern:

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East 106th Street Road Diet and Bike Lanes Head to Manhattan CB 11

DOT is proposing a road diet for East 106th Street. CB 11's transportation committee could vote on it as soon as next month. Image: DOT

DOT is proposing a road diet for East 106th Street. CB 11′s transportation committee could vote on it as soon as next month. Image: DOT

Running between Fifth Avenue and FDR Drive, 106th Street in East Harlem should provide a key bike connection between Central Park and Randall’s Island. NYC DOT is proposing a road diet and painted bike lanes [PDF] to improve safety on the street, and Community Board 11′s transportation committee could vote on the plan soon.

At 60 feet wide, 106th Street currently has two car lanes in each direction, even though one lane each way could handle the existing traffic. The connection to the Randall’s Island bike-pedestrian bridge at 103rd Street is also tricky to navigate. This is especially important since 106th Street is the most direct connection between Central Park and Randall’s Island, due to the prevalence of large super-blocks in East Harlem.

The present design contributes to the disproportionate share of traffic violence on East 106th Street. There were two  pedestrian fatalities in separate crashes in 2005, and a cyclist was killed at the intersection with Park Avenue in 2000, according to CrashStat. It ranks in the top third of Manhattan’s most dangerous streets, according to NYC DOT.

DOT is proposing a classic four-to-three lane road diet, converting the existing four car lanes to two car lanes, bike lanes, and a center median with left-turn lanes. At Second and Third Avenues, median islands would make intersections safer for pedestrians by turning one 60-foot crossing to two 25-foot segments.

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Local Climate Doesn’t Exert Much Influence on Biking and Walking

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There is no link between colder temperatures and levels of walking and biking to work. Click to enlarge. All graphics: Alliance for Biking and Walking

Which state has the highest share of people who walk to work? It’s not temperate California.

Actually, Alaska, the coldest state in the U.S., has the highest rate of active commuting. About 8 percent of workers there commute by foot and another 1 percent by bike.

That illustrates something that researchers have noticed for a long time — climate isn’t a strong indicator of where people walk and bike a lot, or where they do not.

In its big biannual benchmarking report, the Alliance for Biking and Walking cross-referenced climate data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with walk and bike commutes rates in U.S. cities. They found only a “weak relationship” between climate and active commuting.

The top chart shows major American cities on a spectrum from the most cold-weather days to the fewest. Note that biking and walking rates are scattered all over the place, even as the cities grow colder from left to right.

When you look at cities that have lots of hot days, though, a relationship does appear. As this chart shows, some of the cities with the lowest bike and walk commuting rates also have some of the hottest days — Forth Worth, Jacksonville, Las Vegas.

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5 Things You Should Know About the State of Walking and Biking in the U.S

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While walk and bike commute rates aren’t changing rapidly, since 2005 walking to work has ceased a long-term decline, and biking to work has started to rise after many years of stagnation. All graphics: Alliance for Walking and Biking.

The Alliance for Biking and Walking released its big biannual benchmarking report today, a 200-page document that measures the scope, status, and benefits of biking and walking across the United States, using 2011 and 2012 data to update its previous reports.

Streetsblog will be running a series of posts looking at the Alliance’s findings over the next few days. To start it all off, here are a few of the key takeaways:

1. Biking and walking are growing — slowly

Nationwide, 3.4 percent of commuters got to work by foot or bike in 2011 and 2012.

In those two years, walking accounted for 2.8 percent of work trips, up from 2.5 percent in 2005 but not perceptibly different than any year since. Nationwide, bike commute mode share stood at 0.6 percent in 2012, up from 0.4 percent in 2005 but not much different than when the previous benchmarking report came out two years ago.

The Alliance calls this a continuation of the “very gradual trend of increasing biking and walking to work.”

2. But walking to work is growing more noticeably in cities

In the 50 largest cities, however, a recent increase in walking is somewhat more discernible. The walking commute share rose to 5 percent in 2012 — half a percentage point higher than in 2005. Meanwhile, bike commuting in the 50 largest cities rose to 1 percent mode share in 2012 from 0.7 percent in 2005.

Boston had the highest share of walking commuters at 15 percent, and Portland had the highest share of bike commuters at 6.1 percent.

Keep in mind that these mode-share numbers are based on the Census, which only counts people who bike or walk for the longest part of their commute more than three days a week. As we’ll see, this understates total biking and walking activity.

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Icy and Dicy: Bridge Bike Commuters Report Hazards After Late Snowfall

"N'ice day to walk your bike to work," tweeted Wiliamsburg Bridge commuter Will Sherman. Photo: Will Sherman/Twitter

“N’ice day to walk your bike to work,” tweeted Wiliamsburg Bridge commuter Will Sherman. Photo: Will Sherman/Twitter

It wasn’t enough snow for a sneckdown, but last night’s storm did mess with more than a few commutes this morning. Bike commuters discovered slippery conditions riding across the East River after winter threw one more dusting of snow at New York City.

Although the thin coating of snow on city streets melted under this morning’s sun, cyclists riding across the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg, and Queensboro Bridges encountered stretches of iced-over paths. Many cyclists dismounted and walked across the bridges. Of those who stayed in the saddle, a number reportedly slid and fell.

The #bikeNYC hashtag lit up Twitter this morning with warnings and complaints about the icy conditions. We’ve asked NYC DOT, which manages snow clearance on the bridge paths, if it had planned for last night’s snowfall or if it plans on clearing the bridges today. We’ll let you know if we hear anything back.

Things were no better on the Queensboro Bridge this morning. Photo: Jeremy Lenz/Twitter

Things were no better on the Queensboro Bridge this morning. Photo: Jeremy Lenz/Twitter

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When Traffic Deaths Don’t Make the News: Jelani Irving, 22

Jelani Irving. Photo from the Irving family via Ghost Bike Project

Jelani Irving. Photo from the Irving family via Ghost Bike Project

While NYC traffic deaths are down in the first few months of 2014, they are still so frequent that not every fatality gets reported in the news. This is often the case when a victim dies from injuries in the hospital days after a crash. That’s what happened earlier this year to 22-year-old Jelani Irving.

Irving was critically injured just before 6:15 a.m. on February 2 while riding his bike at the intersection of Classon Avenue and Washington Avenue in Crown Heights. Irving’s sister, Imani Irving, said he was riding his bike home from work after his shift as a yellow cab driver.

Police say Irving was struck by a 61-year-old man driving a 1999 Nissan Maxima northbound on Washington. The driver was turning right onto Classon — a turn with a very obtuse angle that motorists can make at speed — and struck Irving as he was cycling south in the northbound lane. NYPD says Irving veered left, crossing the path of the driver. The driver was cited for two equipment violations; press reports at the time said they were for bald rear tires. There were no citations or arrests related to Irving’s death.

Irving, unconscious and in cardiac arrest, was taken to Kings County Hospital and classified by NYPD as likely to die. He died of his injuries four days later.

The crash was covered by the Brooklyn Paper and Gothamist but it was not known that it caused Irving’s death until his name later appeared in WNYC’s “Mean Streets” traffic fatalities tracker.

Irving’s cousin, Daniel Gregoire, works at a Unitarian church in Pennsylvania and wrote about his family’s loss on the church’s website:

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“Suspected Drunk Cyclist Leaves Trail of Destruction”

A funny thing happens when you switch the word “car” with the word “bike” in news reports. Robert Prinz, a former Streetsblog San Francisco intern, has been making the switch in stories about destructive car crashes and posting the results at his blog, 10 Miles per Hour Challenge! It makes for some provocative viewing.

Here are a few examples of his handiwork.

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Rockaway Students Want DOT to Use Extra Asphalt for Walking and Biking


Rockaway Freeway, a multi-lane divided road beneath the A train on the Rockaway peninsula, is hardly friendly territory for walking or biking. A group of teens interning with the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance is looking to change that. Their goal: Gather 10,000 signatures on a petition asking DOT to convert some under-used road space, created as part of a traffic-calming project years ago, into a safe place for walking and biking.

“There are two striped buffers that aren’t being used for anything,” said Sebastian Rahman, 15, a sophomore at Scholars Academy in Rockaway Park and an intern with RWA. “People still do use them to get from point A to point B, even though it isn’t really isn’t safe.”

“You have people speeding there,” said intern Kaitlyn Kennedy, 16. “It’s not the safest place to be walking.” A road diet reduced the number of lanes and added the striped buffered areas more than a decade ago, but Rockaway Freeway continues to be a dangerous road: Last December, a teen driver killed one of his passengers and seriously injured another in a late-night crash on the road at Beach 41st Street.

“We saw the Rockaway Freeway as a great opportunity,” Rahman said. After Hurricane Sandy wiped out portions of the boardwalk, he continued, “there was no more connectivity between the east side and the west side of the peninsula.” Together, the student interns have come up with a concept that mixes new planted areas with more space for pedestrians and a dedicated bike path.

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