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Webinar Recap: Safer Bicycling through Stronger Car Safety 

The League is committed to making our roads safe for people who bike. To do that, we not only advocate for safer road designs and bike infrastructure, but also for safer vehicles. 

Our recent webinar talks through two areas where we think the U.S. Department of Transportation, and in particular the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), must do better on vehicle safety standards to make biking better. 

The first is testing cyclist automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems in its 5-Star safety rating program, and the second is in improving the safety of large trucks. In this webinar, we explain the issues, what the League is pursuing to address the problem, and how you can help!

Automatic Emergency Brake (AEB) Systems 

Automatic emergency brakes, or AEBs, are a safety feature that can detect potential collisions and stop vehicles before a crash. In the United States, these systems are oriented towards preventing collisions with other cars and, increasingly, pedestrians. However, if AEB systems included bicyclists, there is potential to prevent up to 26% of bicycle crashes and over 50% of fatal crashes. 

This is a major opportunity to improve cyclist safety, but bicyclist-AEB tests aren’t being pursued or discussed by NHTSA. This is partially due to the inherent differences between detecting pedestrians versus bicyclists – people on foot are typically slower and easier to recognize than cyclists. 

This is not to suggest that bicyclist-AEB tests aren’t feasible – in fact, they’re implemented in safety systems across the world. But we can’t rely on other countries pushing for safer vehicles – we need our nation’s chief road safety agency to actually do its job. Right now, NHTSA is accepting comments on its latest pedestrian-AEB proposal. While we’re glad to see a focus on pedestrian safety, we demand to see a report on bicyclist-AEB that charts a clear way forward after endless delays and exclusion.

Large Truck Safety

Only 4% of registered vehicles in the US are large trucks, and yet they are responsible for 11% of bicyclist fatalities. Unlike AEBs, the solution to increase large truck safety is pretty low-tech – Lateral Protection Devices, also known as side guards, are a practical and effective tool to stop cyclists from either getting sucked underneath or getting crushed by the back wheel of a turning truck.

Field tests and literature reviews by the US DOT Volpe Center showed that side guards can reduce bicyclist fatalities by 55-75% and reduce pedestrian fatalities by 20-27%. Their conclusion is clear: side guards work. Unfortunately, they still aren’t yet being implemented on a wide scale. This is in part due to lobbying by the American Trucking Association, which urged the removal of over 70 pages on benefits of regulations from the Volpe Center’s 2020 Final Report – including study results on the efficiency of side guards. 

We have two goals here: we’d like to see side guards required for large trucks across the nation. We also want to create a precedent that any research performed to assess vehicle safety should automatically include bicyclists – NHTSA’s current proposed rule on side guards does not even consider bicylist, pedestrian, or even motorcyclist safety in its benefits analysis.

Let’s Take Action NOW

The US Department of Transportation currently has leadership that emphasizes road safety. Even though NHTSA is lagging behind, this is still the most ideal time to take action. As vehicle technology continues to develop, we want to make sure that bicyclist safety is considered right now – not later.

We ask you to please submit your comment to NHTSA demanding they include cyclist safety in their road safety efforts! Click here to view the Action Alert and sign your support.

Watch the video and download the slides below: