Take Action: National Goal to Reduce Bicyclist and Pedestrian Deaths
Yesterday, we asked League members and supporters to take action and urge Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to insist that the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) establish a specific national goal to reduce the number of bicyclists and pedestrians killed on our nation’s roads.
You may be asking: Why now? Why Secretary LaHood? Isn’t he an ally?
He sure is. But the bike-friendly Secretary oversees an agency that sometimes needs a little persuasion to take bicycling issues seriously.
For example, the 650 cyclists killed on our nation’s roads every year hasn’t been enough to make bicyclists’ safety a priority for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) — it’s only about 2% of all traffic fatalities, after all.
Similarly, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and State Departments of Transportation have done little to alter the fact that less 0.5% of highway safety funds is being spent to reduce bicyclist and pedestrian crashes — despite the fact that people who bike and walk account for almost 16% of all traffic deaths.
So why now, and why ask for a “performance measure”?
- MAP-21, the new federal transportation law, requires USDOT to establish safety performance measures for states to meet – but, once again, no performance measure related to the safety of people who bike and walk is currently being considered.
- The number of bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities has risen for the past two years (2010 and 2011) while overall traffic deaths have gone down quite dramatically — that means the percentage of fatalities that are bike/ped has risen from 12% to nearly 16%.
- MAP-21 almost doubled the amount of funding available for the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP), a program run by state Departments of Transportation. Unfortunately, that program has woefully small investments in bike/ped safety projects: Only seven states have spent any of these funds on bike/ped projects, and combined they’ve spent less than 0.5% of the funds annually.
- These HSIP funds specifically can be used to fix more than just high crash locations (which are naturally dominated by cars); they also can be used to reduce crash potential and to address systemic design issues that cause common crash types.
So to recap… The good news is that bicycling and walking are on the rise nationwide. The bad news is that bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities are also rising. Fortunately, more funds are available to fix traffic safety. But, unfortunately, there is no sign of any increase in spending on bike/ped safety. Absent any real target, focus, incentive, leadership, or guidance from the top, states are unlikely to change that unforgivable oversight.
Against that backdrop, it’s critical the USDOT set a specific national goal of reducing bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities. We think a 50% reduction by 2020 is within our reach.
We think it’s essential to hold states accountable to meaningful performance measures that are flexible and focused on outcomes. We know that four states (FL, CA, TX and NY) routinely account for more than 40% of all bicyclist fatalities every year, while several states have none. A good performance measure can be flexible enough to ensure responsibility for bringing down the overall number is appropriately distributed.
Last week, the members of the American Bikes coalition sent a letter to Secretary LaHood asking for a national goal and performance measures to address bicyclist and pedestrian safety specifically.