Bicyclists and pedestrians on a public road

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has introduced a challenge to all U.S. mayors and other elected officials to improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists during the next year, as Larry Copeland writes for USA Today. Foxx made the announcement about his “Mayor’s Challenge for Safer People and Safer Streets” Thursday at a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C.

Foxx said in a press release:

‘As a former Mayor, I understand what a difference it can make when a Mayor chooses to prioritize an issue that brings together many community members toward a common goal… This Challenge will help Mayors to use what we know about how to reduce pedestrian and bicycle fatalities and injuries to make a real difference and save lives in their communities.’

Fatalities due to pedestrian accidents and bicycle accidents have increased in recent years, despite a reduction in overall highway deaths, the DOT statement says. Pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities now comprise almost 17% of total traffic deaths, it adds.

The Challenge consists of a framework of seven activities based on innovations to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety, DOT writes. The program will begin in March at a mayoral summit to be held at the Department of Transportation, where participants and attendees will discuss ways to build on or improve those seven activity areas.

Among the seven areas — which were drawn from recommendations in the 2010 U.S. DOT Policy Statement on Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodation Regulations and Recommendations — are gathering and tracking data on biking and walking in each mayor’s community, and walking in those communities to make sure that street designs foster pedestrian and bicyclist safety, DOT writes.

Copeland spoke with Madison, Wisconsin Mayor Paul Soglin, whose city has been praised by the League of American Bicyclists for its safety efforts. Soglin told Copeland that street design is one important component of safety, and that Madison’s city engineers, traffic engineers, city planners, and biking and pedestrian safety community work together to ensure that intersections and streets are safe, whether new or old. Typical city streets have been designed for vehicles, and some do not even have sidewalks, Soglin said, thus the challenge for cities is to accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists safely.

According to the Alliance for Biking and Walking, a nonprofit coalition of more than 220 organizations, the number of people who walk or bicycle regularly has been slowly increasing, Copeland reports. Jeffrey Miller, president and CEO of the Alliance, told Copeland that there are fewer fatalities in areas with a high number of bicyclists and pedestrians.

In 2013, 743 bicyclists were killed in traffic accidents in the U.S., 1.2% more than the previous year, Copeland writes. A May 2013 CBS Denver news article says that according to The Denver Post, although Colorado’s traffic deaths had decreased 44% since 2002, deaths of pedestrians in the state had risen nearly 10%, and of cyclists by 44%. That article says that the Colorado Senate’s Transportation Committee said money to remedy the problem was “hard to come by.”

The DOT writes that the Mayor’s Challenge is an important component of Secretary Foxx’s pedestrian and bicyclist safety initiative; Foxx announced the launch of “Safer People, Safer Streets” back in September. Those mayors participating in the Challenge will reconvene in March 2016 to share what they learned in the year-long program, DOT writes.

Image by Elvert Barnes

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