States Develop Programs to Reduce Cyclist Deaths

By Charles Pekow

Idaho Develops Bike Safety PSAs

Cycling West - Cycling Utah Magazine logoThe good news: traffic deaths are down nationally. The bad news: pedestrian deaths are rising. So reports the Governors Highway Safety Association in its annual Spotlight on Highway Safety report, Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State: 2018 Preliminary Data. The report (https://www.ghsa.org/sites/default/files/2019-02/FINAL_Pedestrians19.pdf) says that the number of pedestrian deaths rose 40 percent over the previous decade nationwide. The report does not give figures on bicyclist casualties, though.

So what can be done? In 2015, Congress enacted a $70 million/year National Priority Safety Program, Section 405(h) Nonmotorized Safety, which provides grants for projects that reduce bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities. States can use funds for public education and for police training and enforcement.

The report suggests “Congress could provide states more flexibility in the kinds of programs these funds can be used for, such as public education on safe bicyclist and pedestrian practices generally, not just traffic laws, on the safe use of infrastructure, to aggregate more data on non-motorized safety, and to expand programs to more classes of non-motorized road users.” (The law was passed before the popularity of e-bikes and scooters.)

A few states, meanwhile, have taken the initiative to use federal funds to reduce cyclist casualties, the report documents.

The Idaho Office of Highway Safety sent money to the Idaho Walk Bike Alliance to develop PSAs about walking and bicycling safety in Idaho. The Alliance is working on two 60-second public service announcements it plans to offer on social media, one dealing with bicyclist behavior, the other motorist behavior, Alliance Executive Director Cynthia Gibson said in an interview.

The motorist spot explains how to share roads with other users, telling them to give bicyclists plenty of room and what to expect when turning right and a cyclist occupies the corner. The bicyclist video describes Idaho law that allows cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs and red lights as stop signs they can go through after stopping if no cross traffic appears.

The Alliance says the cyclist spot may be available in May and the motorist one this summer to distribute on social media. If it gets funding, it would like to air them on TV. “That's our goal but we don't have that kind of money,” Gibson says. They'll first appear in the Boise area, but “we are working with advocacy groups and bike shops around the state” to distribute the videos, she says. “We're expecting that once we release them, a lot of people will post and share them. We think it will happen pretty quickly.”

While the cyclist video deals specifically with Idaho law, the more generic motorist one could be useful in other states, she says.

Elsewhere, Massachusetts funded 84 local police departments to conduct overtime bike safety patrols. The state allowed the recipients to buy equipment such as crosswalk markers, signs, traffic cones and even helmets.

The Florida Department of Transportation's Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Coalition developed a that addresses the safety issue on multiple fronts: legislation, education, locating dangerous locations and building infrastructure (https://www.fdot.gov/safety/2a-programs/bicycle-pedestrian.shtm).

Indiana uses State and Community Highway Safety Grant Program funds from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (https://www.nhtsa.gov/highway-safety-grants-program) for a pedestrian and bicycle safety program.

South Carolina's Office of Highway Safety & Justice Programs works with the State Highway Patrol on a Target Zero campaign. Community relations offers give about 700 presentations a year at places such as fairs to warn people about vulnerable roadway users. It also places billboards around the state warning motorists to look out for them.

Virginia uses broadcast advertising in English and Spanish and places notices on bus shelters and on buses in the Washington DC suburbs to warn drivers to watch out for cyclists.

A number of localities around the country are addressing the issue through Vision Zero campaigns that set goals to reduce accidents and involve multiple offices (chief executive, police, public health, transportation). See visionzeronetwork.org.

 

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