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Pedestrian vs. Bicyclist Fatality Patterns of Geographic/Demographic Shift

Project Description

This project is part of a broader CPBS UTC effort with an objective of shedding light on the overall national increase in pedestrian fatalities since 2009. While several studies have explored common factors associated with pedestrian fatalities over multiple decades and trends over the last 10 to 20 years, we still do not understand how the geographic patterns of pedestrian fatalities may have shifted in relation to changes in neighborhood demographic characteristics, job locations, or other activity generators.


The objective of this specific project is to better understand the similarities and differences between pedestrian and bicyclist safety patterns. Initial research has found that although pedestrian safety was largely an urban problem 20 years ago, pedestrian fatalities have been migrating into the suburbs over the last 20 years. This spatial migration has coincided with the overall increase in pedestrian fatalities in the US and may represent a critical part of the puzzle to understanding the underlying mechanisms of this increase. Initial research suggests that a suburbanization of poverty may have driven lower-income residents into outer suburbs, where although they are dependent upon non-automobile modes of transportation, there are few facilities to safely accommodate that travel behavior.


On the other hand, little research has been done to understand how bicyclist safety has shifted. A suburbanization of poverty might result in bicyclist crashes and/or injuries in the suburbs. However, there has been a strong investment in many downtowns in terms of bicycle infrastructure, which might increase exposure in downtowns (although may have also improved safety). Better understanding pedestrian and bicyclist safety trends might help us better understand the safety crises that is unfolding and allow us to better address the issues that we have identified.


We envision this bicyclist safety trend project having two aspects: 1) a national analysis comparing all pedestrian fatalities to bicyclist fatalities to understand how the trends converge and differ and 2) an analysis of specific metropolitan areas for which we will pursue an analysis across the injury severity spectrum. For the national analysis, we plan to explore 20 years of data since fatality data is available on the national level with relatively good geospatial information over the last 20 years. For the metropolitan area analysis, we anticipate analyzing 10 years of data because that is the typical timeframe that comprehensive crash data is available. We may use metropolitan areas in Texas as Texas has good comprehensive crash data and quickly growing sunbelt cities have experienced significant pedestrian and bicyclist safety issues, although metro area selection will likely take place after the national analysis results are interpreted.


The expected deliverables are a final report and a policy brief (that will allow for easy interpretation of results by cities, regions, and states). We will pare the final report into at least three academic papers. The final report, policy brief, and any published papers will be published on the CPBS website and on TRID. We will also disseminate findings through the social media accounts of CPBS and the PIs. We will integrate the findings into coursework at UNM in addition to coursework at collaborating universities. Results will be integrated into workforce development trainings through our collaboration with NM LTAP, the NM Summer Transportation Institute, and NMSU IRD. We will also present findings at conferences including TRB, APBP, ITE, and/or the NM Paving and Transportation Conference.


We anticipate that the outputs from this research project will inform policymakers on where and how to prioritize resources and investments into multimodal transportation safety efforts. This will directly improve safety and, by enabling more multimodal transportation, improve reliability and durability of US transportation systems and make them more cost-effective on the systemwide level as well as for individual users of the system.


06/01/2023 to 05/31/2024


University of New Mexico

Principal Investigator

Nicholas N. Ferenchak

University of New Mexico

ORCID: 0000-0002-3766-9205

Research Project Funding

Federal: $129,888

Non-Federal: $0

Contract Number


Project Number


Research Priority

Promoting Safety

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