Be Safe Out There

Today’s Portland Tribune features an article titled Walk, ride at your peril reporting about the nine pedestrian and cyclist fatalities this year so far.

So today’s question is: are these just a statistical blip, or are there systematic issues going on involving the transportation system, or behavioral changes by drivers, pedestrians or cyclists?

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6 responses to “Be Safe Out There”

  1. Headline writers sell papers. Of course, in this case, the Trib is free, but… they want to get the papers picked up. The article was a lot less dramatic than the headline.

    Buried in the story is that bike riding is much safer, per mile traveled, than it was ten years ago.

    Given the sample size, I’d say there’s no way of knowing how systemic problems have changed over the years, but there are some crash-specific problems that can be addressed — dealing with drunk drivers more effectively, looking at speed limits, ensuring police act appropriately, and creating safer streets through engineering solutions. We’re working on all aspects of bicyclist safety along with the City, schools, and other partners.

    One item that we’re looking to find funding for is a more comprehensive data collection on crashes, so we can answer the underlying question. Right now, most crashes go unreported, given limited police resources (and drivers and cyclists who don’t want to be bothered).

  2. To put another spin on Evan’s math (“bike riding is much safer, per mile traveled”)… if bicycle riding is up, crashes are going to be up.

    So, perhaps the nine fatalities, while deeply unfortunate and tragic, are a sign that more people are riding more miles.

    Of course, if it’s true that more people are biking more miles, then there may be systematic changes that need to happen in order to ensure that safety keeps pace.

    More biking means more interactions, and it likely means more ‘amateur’ riders.

  3. I would second the notion that the increase in bicycle incidents is due mostly to more riders being on the street.

    It is silly to think that system improvements can make cyclists “safe” when we’re 100% vulnerable to fast-moving tons of steel that at any given moment can plow through painted bike lanes or any other piece of infrastructure.

    I would give a big vote to behavior changes (on both sides) and increased education. Paint, signs and engineering can only do so much.

  4. It’s worth qualifying that while the absolute accident rate may go up as cycling increases, it tends to go up at a lower rate, meaning that cycling may still be getting safer. There’s safety in numbers. That is the conclusion of this European study at least. It would be interesting to see if local data bears this out.

  5. I would have to say, and this is purely subjective I admit, that drivers in Portland are pretty “cyclist aware.” Sure, I’ve had some close calls over the years, but only a few. And I think Todd’s premise is correct; the more cyclists on the road, the more aware motorists become of them.

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