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On Thursday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released the traffic fatality numbers for 2012, and it confirmed that bicycle and pedestrian fatalities continue to increase. For 2012, a total of 5,469 people died while walking or bicycling, up from the 2011 toll of 5,139 deaths. Bicycle and pedestrian traffic deaths now represent 16.3 percent of all traffic fatalities, up from 15.8 percent in 2011.
In spite of these increases, very few states spend any of their Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) dollars on bicycle and pedestrian safety. In the five-year period from 2007 to 2011, only 11 states spent any HSIP funds on bicycle and pedestrian safety. Nationwide, states spent just $24 million out of $6 billion available for HSIP on bicycle and pedestrian safety—just 0.4 percent.
In the MAP-21 transportation law, states received a significant increase in HSIP funding—nearly double, up to $2.2 billion per year. It is time that states account for bicycle and pedestrian deaths in their safety improvements. There is even a way to do it already on the lawbooks – as part of MAP-21, the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) has to set a performance measure to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries, and each state has to set a target for how much they will reduce those deaths and injuries. But, if USDOT does what is expected, they will only ask states measure reductions in overall fatality and injury rates, which means that once again, states will overlook bicycle and pedestrian deaths, and we’ll continue to see the number of deaths rise year after year.
Fortunately, a number of members of Congress are stepping in to ask USDOT to set a performance measure specifically on bicycle and pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries. The Safe Routes Partnership applauds Sens. Merkley (D-OR), Ayotte (R-NH) and Schatz (D-HI) and Reps. Blumenauer (D-OR), Coble (R-NC), DeFazio (D-OR) and McCaul (R-TX) for introducing legislation (S. 1708 / H.R. 3494) to require USDOT to set a non-motorized safety performance measure.
This legislation is absolutely critical to ensure that every state looks at their trends for bicycle and pedestrian safety and sets a target for reducing these fatalities and serious injuries. This will help ensure that some of those HSIP dollars are used to make bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements—such as installing sidewalks, crosswalks, trails and bike lanes.
Please help us build the momentum for this important legislation by contacting your members of Congress to ask them to co-sponsor these bills. It’s time that we all stand together to say that the deaths of bicyclists and pedestrians deserve to be counted and prevented too.