What a League National Safety Strategy Would Prioritize
One year into the Biden Administration, we have already seen Congress approve and the president sign a historically large investment in biking and walking infrastructure projects thanks to years of advocacy by League members and supporters. This funding has the potential to reshape our nation’s transportation network to be more accessible and safer for people who bike, walk, or use mobility devices. In 2022, the League will be working with local and state advocates to invest this federal funding into projects on the ground.
President Biden and his team can help us accelerate this change on the ground by laying out a vision for how we build safer roads and enable better biking for everyone.
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We heard this vision was coming in October 2021 when Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg declared America’s traffic safety a “national crisis: and committed to publishing our nation’s first Roadway Safety Strategy by January 2022.
As January 2022 has just a few more days left, the League of American Bicyclists is eagerly awaiting the administration’s National Roadway Safety Strategy.
Here is what we hope to see in the president’s strategy:
- More than just the congressionally approved funding. We are excited about the Safe Streets and Roads for All program in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, but we hope this strategy is larger than that.
- A Safe System Approach. That means putting safety at the center of all transportation projects.
- No more silos. Multiple federal agencies impact traffic safety and a whole-of-government approach would recognize this and recruit a holistic team of agencies to implement a Safe System Approach.
In practice, the League wants to see a strategy that would prioritize safety for vulnerable road users like people who bike, walk, and use wheelchairs. It would fix existing streets by redesigning them for connectivity, slower speeds, and safety. It would ensure new roads are built as Complete Streets which are designed for all the different ways people get around — like biking!
Does this sound like the future of transportation you want for your community and our country? Join the League in sharing our vision for better biking with the Biden Administration.
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Dive into the details about what the League’s hopes to see in the National Roadway Safety Strategy. Read on for our more detailed notes on what we want the Biden Administration to prioritize:
1. More than only the Safe Streets and Roads for All program
- The Safe Streets and Roads for All program is an exciting new program offering $6 Billion in grants to promote comprehensive efforts to reach zero traffic fatalities. But this program was ultimately a product of the negotiations between Congress and the White House in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The National Roadway Safety Strategy should be where the administration states its executive-level priorities and explains how it will pursue safety through the implementation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and other existing legal authority.
- The Safety strategy should be about more than just adding bike lanes to arterials, it should also be about “fixing it right” by building Complete Streets, reducing speed, adding high-quality bike and pedestrian facilities, and redesigning our streets with all users in mind.
2. A Safe System Approach
- The Safe System Approach calls for durable systemic changes that can prevent or mitigate the devastating effects of a crash, such as protected bike lanes, reduced speed limits, roads designed for lower speeds, and improved vehicle safety features. One way DOT could take action is by reforming the Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices to encourage states to make these changes.
- The National Roadway Safety Strategy is the premier opportunity for the Biden administration to articulate how it will use its regulatory powers, funding, and programs to change mindset, scale, and practice in support of a Safe System Approach. Traffic safety in the United States has been primarily viewed as based on individual responsibility, and if a paradigm shift is the goal then this is the place to say it. The US DOT can signal these values by promoting safety projects through large scale discretionary grant programs such as INFRA and RAISE.
- Most federal communications about the Safe System Approach to date have been driven by FHWA. In a Safe System Strategic Plan released last year, which was funded by FHWA and produced by the Road to Zero Coalition and Institute of Transportation Engineers, the plan was “structured around the idea of changing mindset, scale, and practice.” One example of a change in mindset and practice has been the public fight over NHTSA’s use of the statistic that “94% of crashes are caused by human error” which has been criticized by the Chair of the National Transportation Safety Board and removed from the NHTSA website last week. It will be interesting to see if the National Highway Traffic SAFETY Administration has a more clearly articulated role in changing culture.
3. A whole of government approach
- One of the leading principles of the Safe System Approach is that “responsibility is shared.” Not in the sense that a person bicycling is equally responsible for preventing traffic deaths as a person operating a two- or three-ton vehicle, but in the sense that agencies, policymakers, and partners in safety need to work together and share responsibility for creating a safe system. The National Roadway Safety Strategy is a perfect place to bear out this principle by showing a whole of government approach to traffic safety and creating a Safe System.
- A whole of government approach would recognize that multiple federal agencies impact traffic safety. A Safe System Approach requires vehicle safety, roadway funding, public health, and justice agencies to work together and toward the same goal of zero traffic fatalities. The National Roadway Safety Strategy should address conflicts in messaging, and conflicts in action, so that agency actions and messages support one another. Together, agencies can create layers of safety through safer bike lanes, safer vehicles, safer public messages that promote a Safe System, and safer traffic enforcement that responds to racial justice demands for changes in policies and practices.