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Know your state stats

When bicycling advocates approach their elected officials to encourage them to support bicycling-friendly policies, one of the first rules is: be informed.

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics has made being informed about transportation statistics in the fifty states a little easier, with their new publication, the accurately, if not flashily, titled: STATE TRANSPORTATION STATISTICS, 2009.

The report consolidates existing sources on a range of transportation topics from safety to miles traveled, and from freight to air travel. Not surprisingly, the document is short on data on bicycling, since there is a general lack of comprehensive bicycling data available. Even in their reporting of the American Community Survey data, they group the results for bicycle commuters with motorcyclists and taxi cab passengers.

Nonetheless, the document is 143 pages of ‘did you know?’ For example, did you know that the United States has 4.04 million miles of public road and more than 600,000 bridges?

The bulk of the report focuses on comparing states. It reminds us that California (3,434), Texas (3,382), and Florida (2,978) had the most traffic fatalities in 2008, but that Wyoming (30), Mississippi (27), and Montana (24) had the most fatalities per 100,000 residents. Florida (2.7), Louisiana (2.4), Nevada (2.2), and South Carolina (2.2) had the highest pedestrian traffic fatality rates per 100,000 people.

One of the few times bicycling comes up is regarding helmet laws. No states require helmet use for adult bicyclists, but 22 states have helmet laws for children (age varies).

You might have guessed that New York State, with all that good transit in its most populous city, has the fewest licensed drivers (per driving age population,) but did you know that Illinois has the most?

Speaking of transit, the New York City metropolitan area has the most transit trips (4.2 billion a year). They do not break the numbers down by transit trips per capita, so the largest metropolitan areas generally have the largest number of transit trips; however Washington, DC, and San Francisco, CA, have notably more transit trips than the cities immediately above them in population.  Freeway-heavy Los Angeles has the second most transit trips – 84.5 percent of them are by bus.

Which states had the most vehicle miles traveled per person in 2008? Mississippi (14,875), followed by two western states: Oklahoma (13,315) and New Mexico (13,243).

Which state has the highest gas prices before taxes? Home of the pipeline, Alaska.

Which state draws its highest share of energy consumption from the transportation sector? Hawaii – 58.8 percent of its energy use comes from transportation (the number includes jet fuel; it’s an archipelago, after all).

Which state registered the most new hybrid cars in 2007? California absolutely crushes the competition in this category. It registered 97,000 hybrids compared to 19,000 in Florida and 17,000 in New York and Texas. The top ten states account for 60 percent of hybrid registrations.

Finally, which metropolitan areas have the most air pollution (measured in days with an Air Quality Index over 100)? The answers: Riverside, CA, Los Angeles, CA, Sacramento, CA, San Diego, CA,  New York City, Philadelphia, PA, and Atlanta, GA.

Creative use of these data should prove useful in making the case for bicycling transportation. (Please send examples.) And if nothing else, it makes for interesting reading for the data-obsessed.

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