As far as transportation goes, DC often gets a bad rap. Sure, we have the country’s worst drivers, and we may be approaching “metrogeddon” with the 8-month closure of the Dupont Circle southern escalators.
But there’s good news. We also rank among the top U.S. cities in terms of our bicycle and pedestrian programs, according to a study out this week from the Alliance for Biking & Walking.
Of the 51 largest U.S. cities, the District boasts the highest per-capita funding for cycle and pedestrian facilities and education. The report, Bicycling and Walking in the United States: 2012 Benchmarking Report, says DC spends approximately $9.82 per resident to promote biking and walking. Nationwide, states spent on average just $2.17.
Not surprisingly, the report identified a virtuous cycle of infrastructure investment, improved safety and increased bike and pedestrian commuting. Among those 51 cities, DC also had:
- the second highest share of commuters who walk to work (after Boston).
- the seventh highest share of commuters who bike to work.
- the second lowest rate of car ownership (after New York).
- The sixth lowest rate of bike/ped fatalities.
In a press release, Mayor Vincent Gray celebrated the news:
I have made it clear I want the District of Columbia to be the most sustainable, walkable city in the nation. It’s great to see where we stand among our peers and that we are making real progress toward that goal.
This report gave me quite a bit to think about. We often hear about drivers acting aggressively towards bikers, or of problems with pedestrians and cars. Getting around in DC is far from perfect, but think about how much worse it must be in other cities. If we are sixth in bike/ped safety (and I still can’t get a car to stop for me at the crosswalk at 14th Street and Wallach Place NW), then what’s it like in Fort Worth, Texas, which ranks 51, or Phoenix (#48) or even San Diego (#23)?
Another thing I found particularly interesting in the data was that the share of commuters biking and walking seemed to have nothing to do with the weather. The number one state for biking and walking was Alaska! Number two was Vermont. Eight of the 10 top states have snow on the ground pretty much all the time, while states like Florida and Texas ranked dismally. So as I bundle up to walk to work tomorrow, at least I’ll have my pride to keep me warm.