Baltimore has the 11th-largest percentage of commuter walkers and bicyclers among major U.S. cities, according to a new report on bicycling and walking in the U.S.
"Bicycling and Walking in the United States: 2012 Benchmarking Report," released Monday by the Alliance for Biking & Walking, provides a look at commuting by cycling and walking in the U.S., how safe those commutes are and where transportation funding is going — or not going — to promote these alternative means of local travel.
"Baltimore is very bike-able," said Nate Evans, the city's bicycle and pedestrian planner. "And it's even more bike-able when you know where to ride."
The city has 40 miles of bike lanes and 39 miles of trails, Evans said, plus another 80 miles of side routes earmarked for bicyclists. Several projects are in the works, including a bike boulevard along Guilford Avenue from University Parkway to Mount Royal Avenue, and the southern half of the Jones Falls Bike Trail, from Penn Station to the Inner Harbor.
The bike boulevard, Evans said, should be ready "in a couple of months," while the second half of the Jones Falls trail, now about 20 percent complete, should be opening in spring 2013.
The report also ranks the combined pedestrian and cyclist fatality rates for states and cities. Vermont and Boston were rated the safest, Florida and Fort Worth the most hazardous. Maryland ranks 39th among states and Baltimore 15th among cities.
Among states, Maryland ranks 32nd in the percentage of people who walk or cycle to work; the total of 84,749 represents 2.8 percent of all commuters. Alaska has the highest percentage of bicycle and pedestrian commuters (8.9 percent), Alabama the lowest (1.4 percent).
Portland has the highest percentage of people who bike to work (5.5 percent), and several cities have the lowest, including Dallas and Oklahoma City (0.1 percent). In Baltimore, 2,654 people commuted to work via bike in 2009, or 0.7 percent of commuters. When it comes to walking, 19,134 hoofed it to work, or 6.7 percent.
The District of Columbia ranks second for walking and biking levels (13.4 percent). It was rated sixth for bicycle and pedestrian safety.
Albuquerque, N.M., allocates 14.5 percent of its federal transportation budget to bicycling and walking, while Las Vegas and New York dish out 0.1 percent. Overall, states spent 1.6 percent of their federal transportation funds on cycling and walking, or $2.17 per capita.
Some good news in the 242-page report: From 2000 to 2009, bicycling commuters in the U.S. rose by 57 percent. Baltimore's Evans attributed the rise in bike traffic to a number of factors, including added bike lanes and the rising cost of gasoline.
"Our biggest jump came when gas prices were going up," he said.
But the largest 51 cities in the country saw an average 29 percent increase in bicycle fatalities since the group released its 2010 report. That number may change if the planned 20,908 miles of bike facilities and 7,079 miles of pedestrian facilities across the country are funded.
It can be dangerous out there for those who travel by bike or foot: 12 percent of trips in the U.S. are taken via cycling or walking, according to the report, but 14 percent of those involved in fatal traffic accidents are bicyclists and pedestrians.
In 2009, 40 percent of commutes were less than two miles, but 87 percent of them were taken by car.
The alliance is a Washington, D.C.-based association of state and local bicycle and pedestrian advocacy organizations. A synopsis of the report said it should be "used as a tool by cities and states to learn what works best to promote bicycling and walking and what is possible here in the United States."
Baltimore Sun reporter Chris Kaltenbach contributed to this articleCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun