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The National Academies

NCHRP 08-166 [Anticipated]

Racial and Economic Disparities in Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety

  Project Data
Source: AASHTO Committee on Active Transportation
Funds: $750,000
Staff Responsibility: Jennifer L. Weeks
Fiscal Year: 2023

This project has been tentatively selected and a project statement (request for proposals) is expected to be available on this website. The problem statement below will be the starting point for a panel of experts to develop the project statement.

Disproportionate levels of pedestrian crashes, injuries, and fatalities are experienced by Native Americans, people of color, and people with low incomes. Although there is limited data on bicycle injury and fatality disparities, initial research suggests there may be disparities in safety outcomes and in access to safe and comfortable bicycling facilities. There is a need for further data and analysis on exposure to unsafe conditions, such as high-speed and high-volume arterials, and access to safe facilities, including the differences in access based on income versus race.

Disparate exposure does not end at traffic safety. Several other issues are also at play including but not limited to an analysis of air quality and public health, driver behavior regarding yielding to pedestrians from these communities, and decisions made regarding whether and when to bike or walk in specific environments. Finally, there is a need to better understand the role of underreporting of pedestrians and bicycle exposure and crashes, particularly for certain groups, and how that might affect the understanding of pedestrian and bicycling safety disparities.

The objective of this research is to clarify the strengths, limitations, gaps, and biases of existing data and data sources for understanding active transportation safety equity implications, propose improvements to data collection practices, and improve the application of available data and modeling. This research should seek to disentangle disparities by race and income, since disparities may be different between distinct demographic groups. The research should also assess urban, suburban and rural areas separately, to separate the effects of urban context with race or income effects. The research should also examine walking and bicycling separately, recognizing the commonalities and differences between the modes.

Activities to be undertaken could include (1) documenting available data, current data applications, and proposing updates to data collection and application processes to be utilized in assessing pedestrian and bicycle safety disparities; and (2) developing an understanding of the extent and causes of active transportation safety disparities. Better data and a better understanding of how to analyze active transportation safety disparities is a key step in acting to address causes and promote investment in targeted safety programs and infrastructure, and inform policies to improve bicycle and pedestrian data and safety in disadvantaged areas.

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