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Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty (HEP)

National Bicycling and Walking Study: Ten Year Status Report

"This report is about expanding options for personal transportation. In particular, it is about making the changes needed in America's transportation system to encourage greater use of human-powered travel modes. It is about two of the oldest and simplest - and in many ways most intelligent - means of transportation available.
- Introduction to National Bicycling and Walking Study, 1994[1]

On this page:

Chapter One
Introduction and Background

Note: This Ten-Year Status Report is an update of the Five-Year Status Report released in April 1999. This report identifies the latest data available, and updates progress since 1999. It consists of original material from the 1999 report, revised material, and new material.

In 1990, the Federal Highway (FHWA) Administrator described bicycling and walking as "the forgotten modes" of transportation. For most of the preceding decade, these two nonmotorized transportation options had been largely overlooked by Federal, State, and local transportation agencies. An average of just $2 million of Federal transportation funds were spent each year on bicycle and pedestrian projects, and the percentage of commuting trips made by bicycling and walking fell from a combined 6.7 percent to 4.4 percent.[2]

In the same year, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) adopted a new national transportation policy that, for the first time, specifically sought to "increase use of bicycling, and encourage planners and engineers to accommodate bicycle and pedestrian needs in designing transportation facilities for urban and suburban areas", and "increase pedestrian safety through public information and improved crosswalk design, signaling, school crossings, and sidewalks." This policy signaled an increase in attention to bicycling and walking.

The U.S. Congress wanted to know how the Department proposed to increase bicycling and walking while improving the safety of the two modes, and in fiscal year 1991 appropriated $1 million to complete the National Bicycling and Walking Study (NBWS). The legislation outlined five specific tasks:

  1. Determine current levels of bicycling and walking and identify reasons why they are not better used as a means of transportation.
  2. Develop a plan for increased use and enhanced safety of these modes and identify the resources necessary to implement and achieve this plan.
  3. Determine the full costs and benefits of promoting bicycling and walking in urban and suburban areas.
  4. Review and evaluate the success of promotion programs around the world to determine their applicability to the role required of the U.S. Department of Transportation to implement a successful program.
  5. Develop an action plan, including timetable and budget, for implementation of such Federal transportation policy.

Throughout 1991, input for the study was gathered from a wide variety of sources including staff from the modal administrations within the Department, agency field staff, State and local bicycle and pedestrian coordinators, a group of national experts, and from the general public. A Federal Register notice, published in February 1991, generated more than 500 comments that were almost all strongly supportive of efforts to improve conditions for bicycling and walking.

In 1992, a series of 24 case studies was commissioned to investigate different aspects of the bicycling and walking issue. These reports gathered a wealth of information on bicycling and walking from around the world and provided a snapshot of the state of bicycling and walking in the United States in the early 1990s. The studies also highlighted information gaps, identified common obstacles and challenges to improving conditions for the nonmotorized traveler, and suggested possible activities and a leadership role for the Department.

On April 22, 1994, the Federal Highway Administrator and National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator walked the final report of the National Bicycling and Walking Study from the Department of Transportation to the U.S. Congress. The study contained two overall goals:

In addition to these goals, the Study identified a nine-point Federal Action Plan with 60 specific activities for the Office of the Secretary (OST), Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Federal Transit Administration (FTA), and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA); and a five-point State and Local Action Plan with a range of suggested activities for State and local agencies.

In 1999, the U.S. Department of Transportation released a five-year report[3] documenting its response to the National Bicycling and Walking Study and the goals and action plans identified in the NBWS.

This report builds on the previous work to assess the Department of Transportation's activities and progress in respect to the National Bicycling and Walking Study goals and action plans in the ten years since the Study was released. Chapter 2 provides an overview of progress towards the two national goals and the Federal, State and local action plans. Chapter 3 discusses the status of bicycling and walking within the Department of Transportation ten years after the release of this landmark study. Chapter 4 identifies conclusions and recommendations for action that can reinvigorate the Department's commitment to achieving the overall goals of the study. A detailed assessment of how the Department has responded in the last five years to each of the 60 activities in the nine-point Federal Action Plan is provided in Appendix 1. Appendix 2 presents the detailed assessment of the Department's response that was prepared for the first five-year report. Appendix 3 presents funding information for bicycle and pedestrian projects using Federal-aid funds.

Chapter 2
Assessing the Impact of the National Bicycling and Walking Study

The National Bicycling and Walking Study was a landmark report that ushered in a period of unparalleled progress for bicycling and walking issues. Soon after Congress commissioned the Study, it also passed the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA), which made available billions of dollars of transportation funds, which could be used for a range of transportation projects, including bicycling and walking improvements. These bicycle and pedestrian projects can access funding from Surface Transportation Program (STP) (including Transportation Enhancements and Highway Safety funds), Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program, National Highway System funds, and Federal Lands Highway funds. Spending of Federal transportation funds on these two modes rose from $6 million in 1990 to more than $238 million in 1997. In 1998, Congress passed the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21). Spending of Federal transportation funds on bicycling and walking improvements declined briefly under TEA-21 as new policies were implemented, but then rose from $204 million in 1999 to $422 million in 2003. [4]

Many States and localities rediscovered bicycling and walking in the 1990s, and began devoting staff and financial resources to the creation of a more bicycle-friendly and walkable infrastructure. Buoyed by Federal legislation (ISTEA in 1991 and TEA-21 in 1998) that boosted support for walking and bicycling and the National Bicycling and Walking Study (NBWS), the number of bicycling and walking professionals has grown to the point that they have established their own professional association with more than 400 members. In 1990 only a handful of States and cities had bicycle coordinators and none had a pedestrian coordinator.

The National Bicycling and Walking Study also stands out as the first time the Federal government has ever committed itself to modal split targets, i.e. achieving a certain percentage of trips by specified modes. This lead has since been followed in both the United Kingdom and Australia.

The coupling of an increase in use with a simultaneous reduction in fatalities and injuries created a unique target that challenged the conventional wisdom that increasing use would increase crashes. Equally important, the twin goals were designed to ensure that gains in the apparent safety of the two modes were not achieved by discouraging use.

Implementing the National Bicycling and Walking Study was also made more challenging by the changing role of the Federal government in the early 1990s. ISTEA provided the States and local governments with significantly more control over transportation planning, funding, and decisionmaking than had been the case previously.

Therefore, in writing the National Bicycling and Walking Study, the USDOT had to identify an appropriate role to play in encouraging and promoting the two goals without requiring specific actions at the State and local level, even though many of the improvements necessary to achieve the goals had to be made at the State and local level. The result was the adoption of a nine-point Federal Action Plan with 60 specific activities and a five-point Recommended Action Plan for both State and local government agencies.

Doubling the Percentage of Trips Made by Bicycling and Walking

The National Bicycling and Walking Study (NBWS) established the target of doubling the percentage of trips made by bicycling and walking from 7.9 percent to 15.8 percent. In 1990, a total of 18 billion walking trips and 1.7 billion bicycling trips were reported representing 7.2 percent and 0.7 percent respectively of all trips counted by the study. In 2001, the total number of reported walking and bicycling trips nearly doubled to 38.6 billion, although it was only 9.5 percent of all reported trips.

The data were collected in the Nationwide Personal Transportation Surveys and the National Household Travel Survey. The Department views these surveys as the best available data on all types of trips, although the differences in methodology in the collection years limit their comparability.

Summary of Walking and Bicycling Trips, 1990 to 2001

  Walking Trips (billion) Walking Trips % Bicycling Trips (billion) Bicycling Trips % Combined Trips (billion) Combined Trips %
1990 NPTS 18.0 7.2 1.7 0.7 19.7 7.9
1995 NPTS 20.3 5.3 3.3 0.9 23.6 6.2
2001 NHTS 35.3 8.7 3.3 0.8 38.6 9.5

The NBWS goal was based on numbers collected in the 1990 Nationwide Personal Transportation Survey (NPTS). The NPTS was repeated in 1995, approximately one year after the release of the NBWS. The number of walking trips had increased to 20 billion but this figure was just five percent of total trips; bicycling trips increased to more than three billion, and were still less than one percent of all trips. [5]

The first NBWS goal of doubling the percentage of walking and bicycling trips has not been accomplished; although the reported number of bicycling and walking trips has increased.

In 2001, the NPTS was replaced by the National Household Travel Survey (NHTS). The number of walking trips for all purposes increased significantly to 35 billion; the number of bicycling trips increased slightly to 3.3 billion. [6]

There has been a significant increase of the total number of reported bicycling and walking trips since Congress commissioned the NBWS in 1991. In 1990, there were a total of 19.7 billion walking and bicycling trips reported; in 2001, that number had nearly doubled to 38.6 billion.

The NBWS, however, called for a doubling of the percentage of trips made by bicycling and walking. This percentage has increased from 7.9 percent to 9.5 percent. The disparity between the near doubling of actual trips and the slight percentage increase can be explained by the explosive growth in total reported trips made; from 249 billion in 1990 to 407 billion in 2001. In short, reported bicycling and walking trips have increased significantly, but the number of reported driving trips has increased at a rate that eclipses that of bicycling and walking.

The 1999 NBWS Five-Year Progress Report identified this trend and stated that "Increasing the percentage of overall trips made by bicycling and walking is going to be a tough challenge if the level of overall travel continues to increase at this rate." The same remains true in 2004.

Also, although data collected from the NPTS in 1990 and 1995 and the NHTS in 2001 indicate more walking and bicycling trips, the methodology for each survey has been different. Until data are collected using the same survey and methods, an accurate evaluation of the change in level of bicycling and walking in the United States cannot be made.

Another source of information on utilitarian bicycling and walking is the U.S. Census "Journey to Work" survey. The survey is conducted every ten years and reports travel to and from work for people aged 16 or above. In 1990, 4.3 percent of workers, or 4.9 million people, walked or rode bicycles to work. In 2000, the percentage fell to 3.3 percent, and the number fell to 4.25 million people riding bicycles or walking to work. Although discouraging with regards to meeting the NBWS goal, according to the 2001 NHTS, less than 15 percent of all trips are journeys to and from work; over 85 percent of all trips are not accounted for by Census data.

A potential explanation for the reported increase in bicycling and walking trips identified by the NHTS and the relatively stable number of walking and bicycling trips to work shown by the Census Journey to Work survey is that there has been an increase in bicycle and walking trips for non-work related transportation or recreation.

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) monthly Omnibus Household Survey found in 2001-2002 that nearly two million adult US residents bicycle to work or as part of their job and more than ten million walk to work or as part of their job. These data indicate that nearly 12 million adults, or approximately nine percent of all adult workers, regularly bicycle or walk related to their work. [7]

Although the goal of doubling the percentage of trips by bicycling and walking, as called for by the NBWS, has not been met, there are other indicators that walking and bicycling remain important modes of transportation or recreation in the U.S.

The challenge confronting the Department to meet the goal of doubling the percentage of bicycling and walking trips, is to continue increasing the total number of bicycling and walking trips while simultaneously encouraging other travel modes to switch to bicycling and walking. The first part of this might be accomplished simply by continuing current activities including current programs and policies, since walking and bicycling trips have increased. The second part, affecting overall vehicle trips, however, falls outside the scope of activities included in this report, which deals only with bicycle and walking-related goals.

Recent surveys conducted by the Department, such as the 2002 National Survey of Pedestrian and Bicyclist Attitudes and Behaviors, offer insight into why and how people walk or bicycle, and can help USDOT, States, and local governments determine how to increase walking and bicycling. For example, a BTS Issue Brief report using data from the National Survey conducted during the summer of 2002 found that bicyclists riding in areas without bike paths or lanes are nearly twice as likely to feel endangered (mostly by motorists) as are bicyclists with paths or lanes, and more than four times as likely to be dissatisfied with how their community is designed for making bicycling safe. Knowing this and other forthcoming information from the 2002 Survey, communities and States can better understand walkers and bicyclists, and might lead to better plans for providing the most appropriate new infrastructure and programs to encourage more walking or bicycling.

The second NBWS goal of reducing fatalities and injuries suffered by bicyclists and pedestrians by 10 percent has been surpassed.

In 1993, the last year prior to the release of the NBWS, 5,649 pedestrians and 816 bicyclists were killed in collisions with motor vehicles. In 2003, using preliminary data, [8] these numbers had fallen to 4,762 and 626 respectively. These numbers reflect a 17.3 percent decline in pedestrian fatalities and a 23.3 percent drop in bicycle fatalities. In the past year, between 2002 and 2003, pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities fell by 2.8 percent and 5.4 percent, respectively. Overall, since the NBWS was released, combined pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities have dropped 18 percent. The second NBWS goal of reducing fatalities and injuries suffered by bicyclists and pedestrians by 10 percent has been surpassed.

Over the same period, the number of pedestrians injured in collisions with motor vehicles fell from 94,000 to 68,000 (27.7 percent) and the number of bicyclists injured in collisions with motor vehicles fell from 68,000 to 44,000 (35.3 percent). Between 2002 and 2003, pedestrian and bicyclist injuries declined by 4.2 percent and 8.3 percent, respectively.

Bicyclists and pedestrians represented more than 16 percent of all traffic fatalities in 1993, and then dropped to 12.3 percent in 2003. At the same time there was an increase in overall traffic fatalities of more than seven percent. The declines between 1993 and 2003 in pedestrian fatalities (17.3%), pedestrian injuries (27.7%), bicyclist fatalities (23.3%), and bicyclist injuries (35.3%) have exceeded the target set by the National Bicycling and Walking Study.

The role of the Federal government, and specifically the Department, [9] in implementing the NBWS was defined in an ambitious nine-point Federal Action Plan that identified 60 specific action items to be carried out by the Department. Responsibility for each of the action items was assigned to at least one of the modal administrations within the Department (e.g. FHWA, NHTSA, FTA, FRA, or OST).

Action has been taken on at least 55 of the 60 items, and while many of the items are ongoing, more than one quarter of the items can reasonably be said to be complete. There are only five items where no identifiable action has yet been taken and on at least one of these the Department has either no responsibility for the specific action or the action has been performed by other agencies and no longer requires the Department's action. [10]

The final action item adopted in the NBWS was for the Department to serve as a positive national presence and role model in relation to bicycling and walking. Through its work in implementing the overwhelming majority of the Federal Action Plan and other related activities, the Department has clearly shown States and local governments the kind of leadership, direction, encouragement, and support for bicycling and walking that was intended.

In particular, the Department has made significant accomplishments in five key areas:

a) Publications. In the ten years since the NBWS was released, the Department has produced a wealth of literature - research reports, fact sheets, design and sign guides, manuals, brochures, training materials, etc. - on all aspects of improving conditions for bicycling and walking. Most of these publications are available on the Department's web sites. These publications have enabled State and local government agencies and advocacy groups to ensure the design and planning of a more walkable and bicycle-friendly infrastructure, stage successful safety events and training courses, enforce safe road user behavior, combine transit with bicycling and walking, promote public involvement in the transportation planning process, reach new constituencies with important safety messages, and inform planners, engineers, safety experts, accessibility advocates, and the public about bicycling and walking issues.

b) Research and Technology Transfer. The Department has undertaken a comprehensive multi-year bicycle and pedestrian research program that includes original research, project evaluations, several syntheses of existing research work in critical areas (including some foreign experience), training courses to disseminate research findings, awareness campaigns, and other activities designed to apply existing knowledge in the field. The research and technology transfer program has addressed many of the issues identified in the NBWS Federal Action Plan including studies of crash types and countermeasures, innovative intersection designs to accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians, and methods to estimate travel behavior by bicyclists and pedestrians.

c) Outreach and Partnerships. Recognizing that improvements for bicycling and walking will only come about with the concerted and combined efforts of many agencies and interested parties, the Department has actively sought to partner with a wide range of groups and other agencies. The Department has developed a strong relationship with the State Department of Transportation bicycle and pedestrian coordinators and has worked with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) on specific projects. There has been improved collaboration between modal administrations within the Department (e.g. working with the Federal Railroad Administration for the first time) and between the Department and other Federal agencies through regular meetings and joint projects. The Department has successfully used printed materials, the internet, training courses, clearinghouses, conferences, events, and other media to effectively disseminate information about bicycling and walking to a diverse audience.

d) Increased Attention to Pedestrian Issues. Actions taken in response to the Federal Action Plan, as well as the nationwide emergence of pedestrian advocacy organizations, have substantially boosted the level of attention paid to walking issues by both the Department and State and local agencies. Through a range of activities such as the development of a Pedestrian Safety Roadshow, support for Safe Routes to School and annual Walk to School Day events, publication of Spanish-language pedestrian safety materials, and collaboration with the health promotion and injury prevention communities, the awareness of pedestrian issues is higher than at any time in the past three decades. There has also been an increased emphasis on issues affecting access to the transportation system for people with disabilities.

e) Increased Funding for Bicycling and Walking Projects. While the most significant recent increases in funding for bicycling and walking projects occurred with the enactment of ISTEA in 1991 and TEA-21 in 1998, actions taken by the Department in response to the Federal Action Plan, such as the issuance of the "Design Guidance" language [11] in 2000, contribute to continuing record levels of spending on bicycling and walking initiatives across all the various funding categories administered by the Department. In addition, with more information and technical resources available about pedestrian and bicycle facilities and programs, States and local governments are increasingly using their own funds for projects and programs benefiting bicyclists and pedestrians.

While the Department is proud of these and many other accomplishments in the bicycle and pedestrian arena during the past ten years, there are still some items in the Federal Action Plan that have not been addressed, or where important work still remains necessary. A partial list of these items include:

The Department has responded to opportunities and needed improvements to more effectively support its pedestrian and bicycle goals and Federal Action Plan. In 1999, at the five-year mark of the NBWS, ten items for improvement were identified. Five have now been addressed, including:

Progress on the Recommended State and Local Action Plan

The Federal role in State and local transportation decisionmaking continued to evolve throughout the 1990s. However, because most decisions affecting the safety and comfort of bicyclists and pedestrians are made at State and local levels of government, the NBWS provides some guidance and encouragement to States and localities as to the ways in which they could improve conditions for the nonmotorized traveler.

Based on input from State and local bicycle and pedestrian coordinators, and the findings of a number of case studies developed as part of the NBWS, the Study outlined a five-point Recommended Action Plan (RAP) for State and local governments. The final report of the NBWS discussed ways in which each of the five elements of the plan could be implemented, drawing on examples from States and localities that had already made progress in these areas.

Since the Study came out, the Department has not undertaken a formal inventory of State and local government actions in response to the Recommended Action Plan. However, some factors indicate the States and local governments are increasing attention to pedestrian and bicycling needs:

General State and Local Agency Response

Action Plan Item 1. Organize a Bicycle/Pedestrian Program

Since 1994, the number of staff (or amount of staff time spent) working on bicycle and pedestrian issues at the State level appears to have more than doubled. As described above, the growth in membership of an organization of pedestrian and bicycle professionals indicates an increase in the number of staff working on these issues, although the exact numbers working at the local level on bicycle, pedestrian, or both issues cannot be easily quantified.

Also since 1994, more than half the States and a number of local agencies have established or re-established citizen advisory committees to help guide bicycle and pedestrian programs.

Action Plan Item 2. Plan and Construct Needed Facilities

Approximately half the States report that bicycle and pedestrian facilities are now included in some or most highway projects; the remaining States usually develop bicycle and pedestrian facilities as separate or independent projects. Less than half the States have separate bicycle and pedestrian design manuals.

Most States report having an overall long range transportation plan that integrates bicycling and walking; one-third have a separate long range plan for bicycling and walking.

Action Plan Item 3. Promote Bicycling and Walking

Most States and local governments report publishing supportive literature (maps, brochures, etc), and more than half promote or organize events such as Bike-to-Work Day.

Action Plan Item 4. Educate Bicyclists, Pedestrians, and the Public

Most States and localities have produced bicycle and pedestrian safety literature; local agencies are more likely to have also provided training to children on safe walking and bicycling.

Action Plan Item 5. Enforce Laws and Regulations

Some States and localities have revised their vehicle codes and/or drivers' manuals since 1994 to better address bicycling and walking issues, others have passed child helmet laws for bicyclists.

As March 2004, 20 States (including the District of Columbia) have enacted age-specific bicycle helmet laws and more than 131 localities have enacted some type of bicycle helmet legislation.

Chapter 3
Status of Bicycling and Walking Within the Department


There can be little question that the treatment of bicycling and walking issues within the Department of Transportation has advanced considerably since the start of the 1990s. When Congress commissioned the National Bicycling and Walking Study (NBWS) in 1990, there were no more than one or two Department headquarters staff working full-time on bicycle and pedestrian issues, and fewer than five with any part-time responsibility for them. Today there are approximately ten full-time and ten part-time personnel within the Department with responsibility for bicycling and walking, as well as a dozen or more staff who are regularly involved in bicycle and pedestrian issues. A monthly meeting of Department staff in this area regularly attracts people from the Office of the Secretary, Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, and Federal Railroad Administration. The bicycle and pedestrian responsibilities of these personnel range from programmatic activities to research, technology transfer, surveys, and policy development.

The impressive work of the Department in implementing an ambitious Federal Action Plan, as documented in the Appendices of this report, has been achieved with limited staff and resources in relation to the size of the task. Mainstreaming of pedestrian and bicyclist consideration throughout the USDOT is clearly improving, but is not always achieved.


The downward trends in pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities and injuries during the past decade are certainly encouraging signs, as is the renewed commitment to traffic safety within the Department in general and FHWA and NHTSA in particular. Safety is one of the top stated priorities of the Department.

However, without reliable data on levels of bicycle and pedestrian activity and exposure, the enthusiasm for reported crash reductions involving bicyclists and pedestrians must be tempered by the possibility that the relative danger of the two modes may still be increasing even though fatality and injury numbers are falling.

Nevertheless, successes in improving bicycling and walking can be identified. With recent attention on health aspects of transportation, the Department has joined with the health community to promote bicycling and walking as a means of easily achievable exercise for individuals whose health is threatened by weight and inactivity. In partnership with the Centers for Disease Control, NHTSA and FHWA have developed the National Strategies for Advancing Bicycle Safety - A Call To Action. Released in May 2001, the National Strategies seeks to change the cycling environment in significant ways by addressing five key goals:

Under each goal is a series of strategies and action steps. Different member agencies, and a number of outside agencies, have taken on each of these goals and are making real progress toward implementation. Partnerships like the National Strategies are an innovation unforeseen at the time when the National Bicycling and Walking Study was released in 1994, yet are proving to be a crucial technique for improving walking and bicycling conditions.


Clearly there has been a major increase in funding opportunities for bicycling and walking improvements. Spending on independent bicycle and pedestrian projects has grown from approximately $6 million in 1990 to more than $422.7 million in 2003. [16] Spending on the bicycle and pedestrian components of larger surface transportation projects cannot currently be tracked. Thus, these figures are conservative estimates of the amount of funding being devoted to bicycle and pedestrian improvements. In 2004, under current Federal transportation laws, virtually all the major transportation funding programs can be used for bicycle and pedestrian activities without any limit on the amount of available funds. By contrast, in 1990, many of the Federal-aid funding programs were not used for bicycle and pedestrian improvements and no State was allowed to spend more than $4.5 million in any one year on bicycle and pedestrian projects that were not part of a larger highway project.

Despite this remarkable change, expenditures on independent bicycling and walking projects are still less than two percent of total surface transportation spending.

Under TEA-21 (and expected under new legislation) States and localities choose how much to spend on bicycle and pedestrian safety and facilities. As directed by current legislation, decisions on spending on transportation infrastructure projects should take into account the needs of pedestrians and bicyclists, particularly through the planning processes at the State and MPO levels of government. Increased attention to the needs of nonmotorized modes of travel during the planning process, could result in greater amounts of funding for these projects and programs in the future.

Overall Status:

The Department is supportive of bicycling and walking and has made great progress in addressing the needs of the two modes of transportation. There is certainly a much greater awareness of bicycling and walking issues compared to a decade ago. However, there is still much progress to be made in making the nonmotorized modes a routine part of the everyday activities of the Department. The final chapter of this report presents some conclusions and identifies a number of key action items that merit further study. Their role in elevating bicycling and walking to the point that they become a more visible, mainstream part of the policy, programs, and projects of the Department will be investigated.

Chapter 4
Conclusions and Future Directions


In the ten years since the National Bicycling and Walking Study (NBWS) was released, bicycling and walking issues have become more a part of the day to day activities of Federal, State, and local transportation agencies in the United States. Progress has been made towards to the twin goals of increasing use while improving the safety of the two modes.

The United States Department of Transportation has acted on the majority of the 60 items contained in the NBWS Federal Action Plan and has played a significant role in encouraging and enabling State and local governments to implement various elements of the NBWS Recommended Action Plan for State and Local Governments.

However, to achieve the specific goals of the study and to realize the vision of "a nation of travelers with new opportunities to walk or ride a bicycle as part of their everyday life" [17], the Department must renew its commitment to elevating bicycling and walking to become part of the transportation mainstream.

Proposed Action Items

In the process of developing this report, three areas deserving of further attention were identified. For each area a number of potential action items were developed.

Better Documentation of Bicycling and Walking Activity

Improving Internal Support and Commitment to Bicycling and Walking

Improving External Awareness and Support for Bicycling and Walking

Future Directions

Upon reauthorization of the surface transportation legislation, an implementation plan will be developed by the US DOT. In the context of developing the bicycle and pedestrian components of this implementation plan, the US DOT will take another look at each of these action items. In addition, opportunities for further collaboration with the health community to promote more active forms of transportation such as bicycling and walking will be explored.

The opening sentence of this report recalled a 1990 statement by the FHWA Administrator that bicycling and walking were the "forgotten modes." It was perhaps a measure of how far the Department as whole had come that in 1999 the FHWA Administrator wrote that, "we expect every transportation agency to make accommodation for bicycling and walking a routine part of their planning, design, construction, operations, and maintenance activities." In 2001, the Secretary of Transportation stated "Bicycle and pedestrian facilities and programs are an integral part of our nation's transportation system for the 21st century." He also pledged the full support of the Department in "efforts to mainstream bicycling and walking facilities and programs into our Nation's transportation system at all levels of government..." [18] With continued dedication and support, the Department can achieve the goals of the National Bicycling and Walking Study.

"Bicycling and walking can then become attractive options and valuable components within our Nation's transportation system." [19]


[1] The National Bicycling and Walking Study - Transportation Choices for a Changing America; Final Report, FHWA, 1994, FHWA-PD-94-023.

[2] Journey to Work Trends in the United States and its Major Metropolitan Areas, 1960-2000, FHWA, 2003, FHWA-EP-03-058.

[3] National Bicycling and Walking Study Five Year Status Report, FHWA, 1999,

[4] In addition to spending programs for Bicycle and Pedestrian improvements, Federal legislation also established the Recreational Trails Program, which has provided nearly $328 million to states between 1993 and 2004. More information can be found at

[5] The NPTS survey methodology changed between the 1990 and 1995 surveys from a telephone survey to a travel diary survey. This resulted in an increase in the reported number of trips overall, although it likely better reflects actual travel.

[6] Changes in survey methodology from 1995 to 2001 could have increased the number of trips reported. For example, in 2001, direct interviewer probes were asked of respondents to report any "forgotten" bike or walk trips. Also, persons ages 0 to 5 were included in 2001, but not in 1995.

[7] The apparent disparity between Census Journey to Work data, and the BTS Omnibus data are most likely the result of different survey methodologies. For example, the Census data were collected using a self-reported survey while the BTS data were collected using telephone interviews. They also collect slightly different information; the Census looks only at going to and from work, while the BTS Omnibus survey looks at travel to and from work, as well as walking and bicycling as part of work.

[8] Preliminary Estimates of 2003 Highway Fatalities, released April 28, 2004;

[9] The NBWS established an action plan within the USDOT as the primary implementing agency. Other Federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Department of Health and Human Services), and the National Park Service (Department of the Interior), also have active programs to support an increase in walking and bicycling.

[10] A full assessment of the actions taken in the past five years (1999-2004) under each item is provided in Appendix 1. Appendix 2 provides an assessment of the actions taken by USDOT between 1994 and 1999.

[11] The Design Guidance included a Policy Statement encouraging the inclusion of facilities for bicyclists and pedestrians in all transportation projects unless exceptional circumstances exist.

[12] A list of State Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinators is maintained by the AASHTO Transportation Center for Excellence, Subcommittee on Design, at

[13] William Wilkinson and Bob Chauncey, Are We There Yet? Assessing the Performance of State Departments of Transportation on Accommodating Bicycles and Pedestrians. National Center for Bicycling & Walking, Washington, DC: February 2003.


[15] No centralized source of information about bicycle and pedestrian coordinators at the local level exists, so membership in the professional organization serves as the only available rough indicator of the number of professionals in the field.

[16] Appendix 3 of this Report presents detailed information on Federal transportation monies provided to States for bicycle and pedestrian projects. It also presents State-by-State data on bicycle and pedestrian spending.

[17] National Bicycling and Walking Study, page 124.

[18] Letter by Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta to Participants at the National Bike Summit, March 27, 2001;

[19] National Bicycling and Walking Study

Updated: 1/31/2017
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