This post was written by WalkDenver Board member Gideon Berger and was originally presented here:
WalkDenver was excited to participate in the Pro Walk/ Pro Bike/ Pro Place conference in Pittsburgh earlier this month. While there is always lots to learn from advocates and practitioners from all around the country at this national conference for walking and bicycling professionals organized by the Project for Public Spaces, federal Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx also made headlines by announcing a new US Department of Transportation initiative to enhance pedestrian and bicycle safety.
Called “Safer People, Safer Streets,” Secretary Foxx—who was once hit by a right-turning driver while jogging during his first term as mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina—called the action plan, “the most comprehensive, forward-leaning initiative U.S. DOT has ever put forward on bike/ ped issues.” While there has been a 33% reduction in passenger vehicle occupant deaths in the US in the past decade, the DOT reports the number of bicycle and pedestrian fatalities has increased by about 15% since 2009. And pedestrian fatalities are a far larger problem: 4,743 were killed while walking in 2012 compared to 726 cyclists.
Recent data also indicates that residents of low-income and minority neighborhoods are disproportionately involved in bike and ped injuries and fatalities, and low-income neighborhoods often have fewer sidewalks and other safe infrastructure. Ped and bike safety is also a more serious problem in cities and urban areas: 73% of pedestrian deaths and 69% of bicyclist deaths in 2012 occurred where interactions between vehicles and non-motorized users are frequent, and where many people walk or bike to reach destinations or transit stops and stations. The majority of fatalities occur on urban arterial streets.
So what is DOT proposing to do about all this? Over the next 18 months they will be rolling out a variety of new resources and highlighting existing tools for transportation practitioners. On pedestrian safety, these will include:
- bike/ped safety assessments of selected corridors throughout the country
- a new road diet guide (studies show that road diets reduce all traffic crashes by an average of 29%)
- an “aggressive research agenda” on a range of topics including pedestrian safety, performance measures, design flexibility and network development
- an updated resident’s guide for creating safe and walkable communities
- evaluation of pedestrian safety engineering countermeasures at urban and suburban mid-block crossing locations (about 70% of ped fatalities occur away from intersections)
- a pedestrian countermeasure crash modification factor study (focusing on sites and 18 countermeasures in San Francisco, Las Vegas and Miami)
- a new Road Safety for Transit Patrons Initiative to bring staff from federal agencies to provide technical assistance to transit operators
- requiring transit agencies to establish policies for encouraging safe access to transit as part of their Transit Agency Safety Plans
- promoting the improvement of pedestrian networks such as by evaluating new ped facilities for inclusion in the next addition of the federal traffic control device manual in 2016
- evaluating new law enforcement and education techniques as pilots in New York City, Philadelphia and Louisville, Ky.
- developing new safety campaign materials
As we gear up for a new pedestrian plan in the City & County of Denver, we at WalkDenver could not be happier about the timing of this announcement. We hope to see the city officials take advantage of these new resources, tools, guidance and research.