How many people bicycle and walk in Missouri? The first definitive data EVER from MoDOT

The MoDOT Tracker is the agency's way of keeping tabs on the most important developments in transportation in Missouri.

In the Tracker, MoDOT recently began keeping statistics on the amount of bicycling and walking in Missouri and how much the agency is spending on pedestrian facilities and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance.

The good news--the amount of spending on pedestrian and ADA projects has increased by a healthy amount in the past few years.  The bad news--in any given two-week period, only a minority of Missourians, less than 30%, have taken any kind of a walk or bike ride along a public street in Missouri.  

The good news--MoDOT is tracking these statistics annually, so soon we will start to have a good idea whether our state's increased investment in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure is having a positive effect on the amount of bicycling and walking in the state.  (Other indications are that bicycling and walking have increased fairly dramatically in Missouri over the past decade.)

How many Missourians bicycle and walk?

MoDOT asked Missouri citizens if they had bicycled or walked along a public road in the past two weeks.  The question was asked first in July 2011 and will be repeated each July thereafter.  Here are the results from July 2011:

    

Note that this is a good question, particularly for MoDOT's purposes--the agency is mostly interested in bicycling and walking along public roadways.

However, this question excludes quite a lot of bicycling and walking that people do--bicycling or walking on trails, for example.  So it almost certainly undercounts the total amount of bicycling and walking in the state by some amount.

In addition, the question was asked in July 2011 and will be repeated annually each July.  The consistent season is important and will allow MoDOT (and us!) to get a good idea of how much bicycling and walking is increasing or decreasing over time.  

However--everything we know about bicycling and walking in Missouri indicates that the peak of the summer heat is not necessarily the peak of bicycling and walking activity.  There is likely more bicycling and walking in the Spring and Fall--perhaps by a fairly large margin.

How does this compare with national data

For many years we have maintained that Missourians almost certainly walk and bicycle far below the national average--probably about half the national average--simply because bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in Missouri is so far below the national norms.

This situation has been changing rather quickly over the past few years, and the amount of bicycling and walking is increasing quite dramatically by all available measures.

So what does this new MoDOT data tell us about the amount of bicycling and walking in Missouri compared with the national averages?  Unfortunately, we know of no other state or national surveys that ask the exact question that MoDOT asks--so it is difficult to compare directly.

Here are some possible comparisons:

Amount spent by MoDOT on pedestrian facilities and ADA Transition Plan

The amount MoDOT has spent on pedestrian facilities has increased rather dramatically in each of the recent years (2011 was incomplete at the time of this report):

      

The amount MoDOT has spent on it's ADA Transition Plan has likewise increased significantly over the past several years:

     

   

  Despite the increases, these amount to only 0.54% of MoDOT's budget

Although the increase in spending on pedestrian and ADA facilities shown in the graphs above is large--and is promising for Missouri's future as a great place to walk and bicycle--it is worth pointing out that the amounts spent on pedestrian and ADA facilities are still a miniscule part of MoDOT's overall budget.  For example, MoDOT's overall budget expense for 2010 was $2.3 billion, meaning that the $12.5 million total MoDOT spent on pedestrian and ADA facilities, as shown in the above charts, was only 0.54% of MoDOT's total budget.

Imagine what would happen if we spent as much as 1% MoDOT's budget on biking and walking?  Or 2%?  Or 3%

The difference would be dramatic, and spending those amounts is well supported by the amount of bicycling and walking in Missouri--6-8% of all trips.

An even stronger justifications is Missouri's injury and fatality rates.  Bicyclists and pedestrians have made up 8-10% of fatalities in Missouri each year over the past 10 years, and currently make up over 14% of on-road injuries.  The annual cost of these injuries and fatalities to Missouri's economy is far, far more than the current amount MoDOT spends on bicycle, pedestrian, and ADA facilities.

What do Missourians think of the state's bicycle and pedestrian facilities?

What do Missourians think of the state's bicycle and pedestrian facilities?  MoBikeFed has conducted several surveys of our members and supporters, and the results show that people are far less than impressed with or satisfied with the state of bicycle and pedestrian facilities in the state.  Compare that with MoDOT's results below:

          

 

Reading the fine print of the Tracker (pp. 10H and following), one reason for the high appraisal of the safety, convenience, connectivity, and accessibility of the bicycle and pedestrian facilities is obvious:  The question is only asked of those (the minority) who have walked or bicycled along a public roadway in the previous two weeks.  Those who regularly walk and bicycle probably live in places that happen to have reasonably good connectivity and safety--or those people would not be walking or biking there.  

It would be extremely interesting to ask the 70%+ of Missourians who haven't recently bicycled or walked what their reasons are--is there nowhere safe for them to go?

The good news is--with the increased amount of funding for biking, walking, and ADA improvements that this report shows, the safety, accessibility, and connectivity of bicycle and pedestrian facilities is improving, slowly but surely, all across Missouri.

It will be very interesting to see how these numbers track over time--will MoDOT's increased investment in pedestrian and ADA facilities improve the number of people walking and/or the public's view of the safety, convenience, and connectivity of the system?

Do Missourians support spending transportation funds on bicycling and walking?

A different MoDOT survey has been annually asking Missourians whether they support vastly increased funding for bicycling and walking in Missouri.

The question asked: Do you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, strongly disagree with this proposal:

  • Up to 25% of the cost of a road or highway project should be spent to add bicycle and pedestrian facilities, that extra expense reducing the number of other projects that could be built

This proposal is a huge increase over current levels of bicycle and pedestrian funding.  MoDOT currently spends about 1.8% of its federal funds on bike/ped projects, and an even lower percentage of state highway funds.

Advocates like MoBikeFed have proposed "fair share" funding: Spending in proportion to the amount of bike/ped trips in Missouri--which would mean spending 5%-10% of transportation funding on bicycling and walking.

But MoDOT asked the public whether they would support devoting a huge proportion of bike/ped funding--up to 25%. Here is what they found:

  • 2008: 47% of Missourians support the proposal of up to 25% on bike/ped
    MoDOT
    MoDOT
  • 2009: 47% of Missourians support the proposal of up to 25% on bike/ped
  • 2010: 53% of Missourians support the proposal of up to 25% on bike/ped

Undoubtedly, a far higher percentage of Missourians, a vast majority, would support a more reasonable proposal, like dedicating 5% of Missouri's transportation funding to bicycling and walking.

Kudos to MoDOT--this is important new data

Kudos to MoDOT for starting to collect this data.  Tracking this data provides the basis for making and tracking improvements in bicycling and walking.  

Merely the fact that MoDOT is regularly collecting the data is a good indication of how far the agency has come in addressing bicycle and pedestrian issues.

In addition, the data clearly shows that MoDOT is doing a far better job of meeting the needs of those of us who need or want to bicycle or walk as part of our daily life.  We still have a way to go, but thanks to MoDOT for taking us as far as we have today.

Working together, we're creating a healthier, more vibrant and livable state.

Charts above are from the July 2011 Tracker, "Environmentally and Socially Responsible" chapter.  July 2011 is the last time the bicycle and pedestrian usage question was asked.  Other versions of the MoDOT Tracker are available here.

Improving data and data collection for bicycling and walking in Missouri is one of the key goals of MoBikeFed's Vision for Bicycling and Walking in Missouri.

          

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