Why Not Aim For Zero Deaths of Cyclists and Pedestrians?

ghost bike photo

Image credit NCinDC, creative commons

James Schwartz of The Urban Country asks why the streets are so dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians, and why we put up with it. He demands zero tolerance, and assembles some grim statistics and articles from around the continent to make his point.

New York City

In New York City, despite new legislation, drivers who kill pedestrians and cyclists are still getting off. James points to a chilling Streetsblog article that notes:

As New Yorkers continued to sacrifice life and limb in the name of nothing more than picking up groceries, walking to school or riding to work, punitive, much less preventative, action on the part of law enforcers continued to be all but non-existent.

Yet the numbers are huge; from AT&T; Documentary Takes on Texting-While-Driving:

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 5,500 people were killed last year because of "distracted driving" and the largest proportion of those fatalities were people under 20.

Schwartz notes that this is almost as many as two 9/11's.

San Francisco:

From SF Gate on being a pedestrian in San Francisco:

"Why isn't that seen as a priority public health problem?" asked Dr. Rajiv Bhatia, director of occupational and environmental health for the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

But the high number of pedestrian fatalities, both locally and nationally, is typically viewed as a transit, rather than a public health, problem.

"There's a federal goal for zero airplane fatalities and a federal goal for zero railroad fatalities," Bhatia said. "Yet we have these acceptable levels of people getting hit by cars and killed."


It isn't much better in Toronto. Schwartz writes:

In Toronto, there were 14 deaths last January in as many days - a "statistical hiccup" they called it. I call it manslaughter. The media in North America has a tendency to point out that the victims were wearing "dark" clothing - or bicyclists weren't wearing helmets - as a way to deflect blame from careless drivers.

Schwartz calls for a goal of zero cycling and pedestrian fatalities. But he isn't optimistic:

Unfortunately, anything in North America that threatens the ability for motorists to drive everywhere fast and unimpeded takes precedence over anything that would improve our health or safety.

The car is still king (for now).

More at The Urban Country

More on Bikes and Bike Safety

Cyclist Memorials: The Andrew Project
Taking Back the Streets: Cyclist Memorials
Ghost Bikes: A Memorial to Cyclists : TreeHugger

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