A bipartisan group of four congressmen last week introduced the “Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act” in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Howard Coble (R-NC), Peter Fazio (D-OR) and Michael McCaul (R-TX) are the co-sponsors of H.R.3494, which would, in the impenetrable language of government – “amend title 23, United States Code, with respect to the establishment of performance measures for the highway safety improvement program.”
Ironically, that 23-word “summary” of the bill is actually longer than the bill itself!
H.R.3494 would simply add these 7 words
“for both motorized and non-motorized transportation“
to the section of the United States Code governing the Highway Safety Improvements Program (“HSIP”), the main federal program concerned with traffic safety. As Blumenauer and his co-sponsors note, the sum total of the intent of the bill is simply to require the US Department of Transportation to set separate measures for motorized and non-motorized safety.
It’s dispiriting and sad, in many ways, that this bill is necessary in 2013. In Delaware, as in many states, pedestrian and cyclist fatalities have stayed either steady or have actually risen over the last 10 years while, at the exact same time, motor vehicle occupant fatalities have fallen precipitously. It should be painfully obvious, to even the most casual observer, that motorized safety and non-motorized safety are fundamentally different issues. Not that they are in conflict* (necessarily). But they are at least uncoupled, in the sense that measures taken to improve motor vehicle occupant safety have no positive effect on cyclist and pedestrian safety.
We need, for both economic and moral reasons, to make strategic investments in pedestrian and cyclist safety through the federal HSIP program. By making pedestrian and cyclist safety into a transportation system “performance measure” in their bill, Representatives Blumanauer, Coble, DeFazio and McCaul are encouraging America to do just that.
Thanks to Representatives Blumenauer, Coble, DeFazio and McCaul for their leadership. Let’s hope their colleagues in congress recognize the merit of their bill and pass it unanimously.
* Because of the phenomenon known as “risk compensation“, some safety measures to increase motor vehicle driver safety may, by altering driver behavior, decrease the safety of other road users.
James Wilson is the executive director of Bike Delaware.
• Bike Delaware Archive Category: SAFETY