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Study: Lack of infrastructure investment puts bicyclists at risk

New York City is the second most dangerous city in the U.S. for bicyclists, according to a recent study, and the most dangerous cities have a fatality rate six times higher than the safest. That fatality rate appears to be closely tied to lack of infrastructure investment.

The study, performed by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's School of Architecture and Urban Planning and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Global Health Institute, included better data than the U.S. Census data typically used. The Census collects information about accidents occurring during the journey to work. This study utilized data from the National Household Travel Survey, which includes journey-to-work data but also collects information regarding trips for school, recreational, shopping and social purposes.

"Including non-work trips allows you to calculate a more accurate estimate of fatalities per trip, per minute, or per mile," said one researcher.

Using that data and a meta-analysis, the researchers calculated the fatality rates among pedestrians and bicyclists in 46 U.S. regions with more than a million people. They were surprised by the difference between the poor-performing areas and those that performed better.

"The five most dangerous regions for walking had an average fatality rate five times higher than the five safest regions," said the researcher. "For bicycling, the most dangerous regions had a fatality rate six times higher."

For biking, the five most dangerous areas were Jacksonville, Florida, New York City, and Orlando, Tampa and West Palm Beach, Florida. The safest area was Portland, Oregon.

To determine whether the cause was related to infrastructure, the researchers compared their lists of safest and most dangerous regions with 'Bicycle Friendly Community' rankings, which rate communities based on their investments in infrastructure and bike safety programs.

"The general connection between high rankings and low fatality rates is a good indication that those investments have paid off," said the researcher.

The study's findings imply a strong connection between high rankings as a "Bicycle Friendly Community" and bicycle safety overall.

The study also found that communities with more bike traffic overall generally had a lower accident risk for each individual biker, which may also imply that public infrastructure plays a critical role.

Interestingly, New York was the fifth safest area for pedestrians, which may mean the city has not been investing sufficiently in bicycling infrastructure and safety.

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