2013 was a particularly deadly year for those driving, but even more for those biking and walking on America's roads.
Hot on the heels of a report that American roads have turned into efficient killing fields—with more than 4,700 people slain last year after a motor vehicle struck them as a pedestrian—the nation’s largest bike advocacy group released a report today that accuses top transportation officials of neglecting to act while 628 people riding a bicycle, legally in the road, were killed in 2013.
The League of American Bicyclists, a Washington-based organization, which, on its web site says represents "the voice of millions of bicyclists," excoriated the federal agencies responsible for keeping roads safe that their lack of oversight has lead to many avoidable deaths, almost all caused by a motor vehicle.
In an email to its members today, the League says that it warned the Federal Highway Administration and U.S. Department of Transportation officials during a recent policy discussion that more deaths would follow if it didn't act and adopt stronger measures to protect them. In 2012, it says, Congress asked them to set goals to guide federal, state and local investments in the nation's transportation system.
“After meeting with officials, we knew they were unlikely to include a specific, non-motorized performance measure—or goal to reduce bike/ped deaths,” the League wrote. “Unfortunately, on March 11 we were proved right. FHWA issued a ‘Notice of Proposed Rulemaking’ that acknowledged our request—but chose not to include (a fatality reduction goal).”
The group would prefer that the federal government adopt a goal of zero cycling and pedestrian deaths, which would put the United States on a path that Sweden, The Netherlands and a handful of European nations started paving about 10 years ago. In establishing hard targets or goals, Northern European nations known for policy and investments in cycling and walking established their "Vision Zero." A recent analysis of 10 years of Vision Zero programs in The Netherlands found that the first five years actually saw a slight increase in pedestrian deaths. In the last five years, however, pedestrian deaths in Holland have slowly but steadily decreased. Inspired by these nations, a few American cities, notably New York and San Francisco, established their own Vision Zero programs in 2014.
The League would like Washington to establish a national traffic safety target, because, as car design and safety mechanisms improve, bicycle and pedestrian fatalities are increasing as a percentage of overall traffic fatalities.
“We believe FHWA's proposal is grossly inadequate, and sets a troubling precedent for subsequent national performance management measures on congestion and pavement condition,” The League concludes.
The group has an open letter started, and is calling on concerned citizens to read and submit comments to FHWA.
(This Wednesday evening marks the national Ride of Silence. Groups of cyclists in cities across the U.S. ride slowly and silently to commemorate the people killed while riding a bike. Cleveland Ride of Silence starts at 5:30 pm tonight, leaving from Mall C, downtown Cleveland).