Thanks to Representative Rick Larsen’s leadership, we’re about to learn more about the trends and causes of collisions involving pedestrians and bicycles and to make recommendations about improving safety on our streets.
While most transportation fatalities and serious injuries in Washington state have been on the decline, our most vulnerable road users — those who walk and bike — have not been enjoying this safety dividend. In some cases fatalities are up. From 2009-2011 15.5% of all transportation-related deaths and 16.7% of all transportation-related serious injuries in Washington state come from those who walk and bike.
As most who walk and bike can attest, many streets and roads can be unfriendly places. It’s a reason that new design guides and innovative best practices around street engineering are beginning to take hold. Still, the majority of new street and road designs in Washington state take a conventional engineering approach, which leads to unsafe vehicle speeds and numerous biking and walking safety and mobility problems.
To begin to get to the bottom of these issues, Washington Bikes thanks Representative Rick Larsen (2-Washington) for spearheading a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and supported by Representatives Norton (Washington DC) and DeFazio (4-Oregon).
“The safety of everyone on the road should be our top priority. Thanks to coordinated efforts, motor vehicle accident deaths are declining. But the same is not true for the most vulnerable people on our roadways – pedestrians and bicyclists. The GAO can give us a better idea of the reasons behind why pedestrian and cyclist fatalities are going up. We want to know what more Congress can do to ensure the highest level of safety for all of those using our roads,” said Larsen, DeFazio and Norton.
GAO will now conduct research to examine:
- trends in pedestrian and cyclist crashes (including causes of such crashes), fatalities, and injuries in the last decade;
- challenges that states face in improving pedestrian and cyclist safety (including roadway design speeds and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) guidelines for road design), and the initiatives states have undertaken to address this issue — with a focus on the effects of the common road engineering standard that sets speed limits at the rate 85% of drivers use under regular conditions;
- the extent that federal initiatives and funds have been made available to assist states in improving pedestrian and cyclist safety, and additional federal actions that may be needed.
Washington Bikes looks forward to the results of this GAO study also informing next steps for the Washington State Department of Transportation (particularly its Highway Safety Improvement Program) and Washington Traffic Safety Commission (and its Strategic Highway Safety Plan, Target Zero) as both agencies seek to become more multimodal and grow their focus on protecting the most vulnerable on Washington state’s streets and roads.