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Research Recap, October 3: Wasting Time in Cars, Booming Bicycles, Pedestrian Safety

New study finds the average American commuter spends 34 hours stuck in traffic each year. Photo by Andrés Nieto Porras.

Welcome to “Research Recap,” our series highlighting recent reports, studies and other findings in sustainable transportation policy and practice, in case you missed it.

Congestion-Riddled Commuting

The Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University released its 2011 Urban Mobility Report. The report revealed that the average annual car commute delay in the United States is 34 hours per commuter, and Washington, D.C. ranks as the worst metro region for commuting in the country. The capital city commute delays amount to a cumulative of three days per year in bumper-to-bumper traffic. The second and third highest city commute delays are Chicago and Los Angeles, respectively. These congestion-fueled delays are calculated to cost the United States more than $100 billion a year, or roughly $750 per commuter, according to the report. Unless substantive investments are made, traffic congestion is expected to add an additional 3 hours of commute delays by 2015, and 7 hours by 2020.

Booming Bicycles

A new report uncovered that U.S. bicycle commuting increased by 70 percent between 2000 and 2009. The report, compiled by Atlantic Cities, assessed U.S. Census and American Community Survey data on 55 major U.S. cities. Portland, Ore. demonstrated a 222 percent increase in ridership, surpassing Seattle as the U.S. city with the highest percentage of bike commuters. The Northwest region saw an 83 percent increase in two-wheeled transport, making the region have the highest percentage of bike commuters in the country. The Northeast region achieved the biggest increase (127 percent) in bicycle commuting, followed closely behind by the Midwest, which experienced a 106 percent increase. The Southeast and Southwest regions had the lowest overall increases during the time period.

Charging Development

GE and Nissan signed a two-year collaborative research agreement to develop electric vehicle charging infrastructure. In preparation for an eventual mass adoption of electric vehicles, the partnership’s research focuses on integrating EV charging infrastructure adaptations into residential and commercial buildings, as well as structuring EV charging dynamics to be in accordance with larger electric grid systems. Two projects already underway include an examination of how electric car charging will impact home electricity costs and loads, and a study on two-way power flows between vehicles and the home.

Pedestrian Risk Assessment

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released a study, “Impact Speed and a Pedestrian’s Risk of Severe Injury or Death.” The study uses U.S. federal crash data collected between 1994 and 1998 to calculate the standardized risk of a pedestrian being struck by a car or light truck in the United States between 2007 and 2009. The risk of death for a pedestrian being struck by a vehicle is 10 percent for vehicles moving at 23 miles per hour, 25 percent for 32 miles per hour, 50 percent for 42 miles per hour, 75 percent for 50 miles per hour, and 90 percent for 58 miles per hour. These calculated risks vary with pedestrian age, with a 70-year-old person’s risk of serious injury or death from being struck by a vehicle moving at 25 miles per hour equal to a 30-year-old person’s risk when being struck at 35 miles per hour. The researchers hope this information will be considered when shaping speed limits and pedestrian safety road considerations.

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