clock menu more-arrow no yes

Here are the deadliest US cities for biking or walking

AFP/Getty Images

About 16% of people who die in traffic crashes in the US are bikers or pedestrians. According to the Department of Transportation, 4,743 pedestrians and 726 bikers were killed in 2012 (the most recent year it has data). Here, in four charts, is an exploration of where the riskiest roads are for someone traveling under human power.

In the US, fewer pedestrians and bikers are dying


But the US is still deadlier than other countries

Usavseurope(I originally labeled this graph wrong as per 100 km. The correct figure is per 100 million km as now shown.)

Phoenix and Fresno are the worst for bikers

BikerdeathsincitiesAbove are five cities with the highest biker death rate per capita (out of a data set of 52 large cities) along with the rates of the five largest cities in the US. When adjusted for city size, Phoenix and Mesa, AZ, Fresno, Jacksonville, and New Orleans come out on top as the riskiest places to bike.

Detroit and Miami are the worst for pedestrians

PedestriandeathsincitiesAfter adjusting for city size, I charted the five cities with the highest rate of pedestrian deaths (out of a data set of 52 large cities) as well as the five largest cities in the US. The highest fatality risk from walking ends up being in Detroit, Miami, Atlanta, Tucson, and Sacramento.

Update: The raw data for the above two graphs is from the DOT and Census Bureau, as provided to me by the Alliance for Biking & Walking, a coalition of biking and walking advocacy organizations. The analysis itself is mine.

There are many difficulties when trying to account for variations in the amount of biking and walking going on in these cities. For example, there's no consistent data set across cities of miles biked or walked, which would likely be the ideal way to calculate risk.

Many doing this type of analysis, including the Alliance for Biking & Walking, prefer to look at the rate of fatalities per the total number of biking or walking commuters (available city by city through the Census Bureau), rather than total residents. But note that this method doesn't take recreational use into account. "This method of calculating risk is somewhat limited due to its reliance on commuter mode share, which is used as a relative measure of overall bicycling and walking," the Alliance noted in its recent 2014 Benchmarking Report, which you can download here.

Andrea J. Milne, Benchmarking Project Manager for the Alliance for Biking & Walking, explained their reasoning to me in an email: "The calculation we used was on strong recommendation from our two academic research consultants (John Pucher and Ralph Buehler) as it is in-line with what they and other researchers use in their own research. We realize that commuters don't fully represent all bicyclists and pedestrians, but we are going with the assumption that where people feel more comfortable biking/walking to work, they likely feel more comfortable biking/walking for other purposes as well."

Here's the results of their analysis, as presented in their recent report. (For a few minutes, I mistakenly posted the best cities. The ones below are now correct.)

Pedestrian fatalities per 10,000 walking commuters (worst 5)
1) Jacksonville
2) Detroit
3) Fort Worth
4) Phoenix
5) Memphis

Bicyclist fatalities per 10,000 biking commuters (worst 5)
1) Fort Worth
2) Detroit
3) Memphis
4) Jacksonville
5) Oklahoma City

Help us explore what’s working

Part of explaining the news is critically examining potential solutions to big problems. Will you support this work with a gift to Vox?