I am in Washington, DC today where I will be speaking at the National Bike Summit about how advocates can be effective in fighting for improved road safety.
Tomorrow (Wednesday) Delaware’s cycling delegation, led by House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, will head to Capitol Hill to deliver a similar road safety message directly to Delaware’s congressional delegation (Sens. Carper and Coons and Representative Carney). We will be asking our congressional delegation for their support for the federal “Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act” in the United States Congress.
What is the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety (“BPS”) Act? Well, one thing it is is perhaps one of the shortest bills ever introduced in Congress!
The BPS Act is not a 7,000 page bill. In fact, it’s not even a 7 page bill. It’s a 7 word bill. All it would do is insert these 7 words (shown in red below) to the section of the United States Code governing the federal Highway Safety Improvement Program (“HSIP”).
USC Title 23 Section §150. National goals and performance management measures
(c) Establishment of Performance Measures
(4) Highway safety improvement program.-For the purpose of carrying out section 148, the Secretary shall establish measures for States to use to assess
(A) serious injuries and fatalities per vehicle mile traveled;
(B) the number of serious injuries and fatalities for both motorized and nonmotorized transportation.
Why are these 7 words important?
They are important because HSIP is the main federal road safety program. Every single year this federal program sends billions of dollars to the states with basically one mandate: improve road safety!
And data suggests that, at least for motor vehicle occupant safety, HSIP has been successful. Last year, overall traffic fatalities fell to their lowest level in 50 years. But this decline has been entirely driven by a decline in motor vehicle occupant fatalities. Pedestrian and cyclist fatalities have not fallen. In fact, over a quarter of traffic fatalities in Delaware are now pedestrians. Over 25%!
And yet, despite the urgent need for improving pedestrian and cyclist safety, the plain fact is that the data also shows that Delaware (as well as nearly all other states) has not used HSIP to improve either pedestrian or cyclist safety. Look at all these zeros:
The Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act before Congress aims to change this. By making “non-motorized transportation” into a performance measure for HSIP, it will create a measure by which departments of transportation can start to hold themselves accountable for pedestrian and cyclist safety. It creates a number to measure and that’s critical because without a number to measure, how can DOT leaders be expected to manage?
We hope that Senators Coons in the Senate and Representative Carney in the House will join their colleagues and become co-sponsors of this short, simple and important piece of legislation. We will ask them to do so, tomorrow, in person at their offices in Washington, DC.
James Wilson is the executive director of Bike Delaware.