Walking, Biking More Dangerous in U.S.
American Pedestrians and Cyclists More Likely to be Killed Than Others
WebMD News Archive
Aug. 28, 2003 -- Pedestrians and bikers beware: You're up to
six times more likely to die walking or bicycling on American streets than in
Germany or the Netherlands.
A new study shows the U.S. not only lags far behind other
countries in implementing pedestrian and bicycling safety measures, but
Americans are also much lazier when it comes to making short trips in the city
by car rather than under our own power.
"Walking and cycling in American cities are much more
dangerous than in many other countries," write researcher John Pucher, PhD,
of Rutgers University and colleagues in a study published in the American
Journal of Public Health.
"Per kilometer and per trip walked, American pedestrians
are roughly three times more likely to get killed than German pedestrians and
over six times more likely than Dutch pedestrians, " they write.
"Per kilometer and per trip cycled, American bicyclists are
twice as likely to get killed as German cyclists and over three times as likely
as Dutch cyclists."
Researchers say at least a quarter of all urban trips are done
on foot or bicycle in most European countries, but only about 6% of urban trips
were made through walking or bicycling in the U.S. in 1995.
Although many European cities are more compact than their
American counterparts, researchers say the extraordinarily low 6% of trips made
by walking or bicycling cannot be attributed to longer trip distances
They say 41% of all urban trips in the U.S. are shorter than
two miles and 28% are shorter than one mile, which means the potential for more
walking and cycling already exists. But the problem is that cycling and walking
are not only inconvenient in many cities, but they are significantly riskier
than driving a car.
Making Walking and Cycling Safer
Researchers compared the walking and bicycling conditions in
the U.S. with those in the Netherlands and Germany based on national travel and
crash surveys from 1975 to 2001 and fatality and injury rates in the year 2000
for pedestrians and bicyclists in each country.
While the U.S. surgeon general specifically recommends more
walking and bicycling as a practical measure to raise physical activity and
combat the obesity epidemic, researchers found there are two main problems with
proposals to increase walking and bicycling: inconvenience and danger.
Researchers say the Dutch and German examples show that it's
possible to make walking and cycling safer and more attractive to residents.
Proven safety measures that could be adopted in the U.S. include:
- Creating better facilities for walking and cycling, like bike paths and
- Calming traffic in residential neighborhoods with speed bumps and reduced
- Orienting urban designs to people rather than cars
- Placing restrictions on motor vehicle use, such as car-free zones
- Improving traffic education for motorists and non-motorists
- Enforcing traffic regulations that protect pedestrians and bicyclists
"Only when the public and politicians become fully aware of
the severity of the obesity problem -- and the huge potential of walking and
cycling to mitigate the problem -- will public policies change enough to make a
real difference," write the researchers.