The Dangers of Biking and Walking in America's Largest Cities

A new study conducted by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute shows that New York and Los Angeles have much higher rates of pedestrian and biking fatalities than the national average.

Jerry Hirsch describes the findings contained in the study, which examined data over an eight year period from 2002-2009 from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, California Highway Patrol and the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles.

"In Los Angeles, pedestrians accounted for about a third of all traffic fatalities, or nearly triple the national average of 11.4%. About 3% of the fatalities were bicyclists. That compares with 1.7% nationally....The numbers are even worse in urban New York, where 49.6% of traffic fatalities were pedestrians and 6.1% were bicyclists."

Michael Sivak, a professor at the institute and a study coauthor believes the findings represent a wider mix of road users in large urban areas. With more bicyclists and pedestrians on the streets in these cities, more are exposed to traffic accidents. 

Unfortunately a bill intended to improve bicycle safety in California was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown for the second consecutive year on Friday.

"Despite virtually no opposition, even AAA supported the bill, Brown vetoed it citing Caltrans' objection to allowing cars to pass 'double yellow' road lines to make the pass," reports Damien Newton in LA.Streetsblog. "Brown was concerned this language opened the door to legal action against the state. None of the twenty states with similar laws to the one Brown vetoed have experienced such lawsuits. Brown joins Texas Governor Rick Perry as the only governors to veto safe passing legislation."

Full Story: L.A. drivers have high rate of fatal pedestrian, cyclist crashes



Michael Lewyn's picture

misuse of statistics

Just because pedestrians comprise a high percentage of fatalities in a city does NOT mean that pedestrians are more endangered in that city.

Here's why: if car fatalities are lower per capita than in other cities, a city can have a low rate of both pedestrian AND vehicle fatalities and still have pedestrians comprising a higher percentage of all deaths than in other cities.

For example, imagine Safetown and Danger City. In Danger City, the pedestrian death rate is 10 per 100,000 while the driver death rate is 100 per 100,000. Thus, pedestrians are 10% of all car-related fatalities.

In Safetown, the pedestrian death rate is 1 per 100,000 and the driver death rate is 5 per 100,000. Pedestrians comprise 20% of all fatalities (as opposed to 10% in Danger City). Nevertheless, both pedestrians and drivers are much safer in Safetown.


The headline might as well have read, "The Joys of Living Car-Free in Big Cities." But that wouldn't get as many clicks, I guess. More filtering, please, Planetizen!

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