More than ever before, older adults are bicycling and walking instead of driving. Like younger generations, people age 50 or older are choosing to ride a bike or slip into comfortable footwear for exercise as well as for commuting to work and running errands.
But with the increased activity comes the unsettling news that traffic deaths for older cyclists and pedestrians are a disproportionate and growing share of all motor vehicle-related fatalities.
In fact, people age 55 to 64 have the highest per capita rates of being killed while biking and walking. That alone is a problem, yet it's exacerbated by the fact that for many older adults, bicycling and walking are key to staying healthy and active.
Pulling together the various strands of research about cycling is surprisingly complex. The best data about bicycling, for example, focuses on trips to and from work, which automatically excludes retirees.
Ken McLeod, policy director of the Bike League, has unearthed information that points the way to a glaring lack of guidance where it’s needed most.
Federally mandated state highway plans “address older driver safety, typically through education," McLeod says. "But there is not a lot of discussion about older adults biking or walking in those documents. We only found seven states that address improving infrastructure for older adults walking in any way. And no states addressed older adults biking, in terms of improving infrastructure or providing education to them.”
Slideshow: Benchmarking Insights on Older Adults
Video: New Insights on Biking Among Older Adults
Watch a webinar hosted in January 2021 by the League of American Bicyclists and AARP Livable Communities.
Video: A 'Bike-Side' Chat with Pete Buttigieg
On March 3, 2021, soon after his confirmation as U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg addressed the League of American Bicyclists 2021 Summit.
"During this very challenging time [of the pandemic], we saw a lot of Americans returning to biking for the first time since childhood," he told the summit's online audience. "I want [the league] to know you have many partners and champions here in the department, and I'm one of them. I don't have to tell you that when streets are safer for bicyclists and pedestrians, quality of life improves for everyone."
More About Walking and Bicycling
- Read the Bicycling and Walking in the United States: 2018 Benchmarking Report
- See the results of the 2020 50+ Bicycling Survey
- Order the free Smart Cycling Quick Guide
- Find more articles about Bicycling and Walking
Page published April 2021
The weekly, award-winning AARP Livable Communities e-Newsletter provides local leaders with information and inspiration for making their town, city or neighborhood more livable for older adults and people of all ages. Subscribe today!
Find articles, publications and more