Many adults enjoy cycling to work. Community leaders herald bicycles as a wonderful green method of transportation. Those who trade their car use for bicycles find they get the benefit of more exercise and avoid the ever-increasing price of fuel.
More people are also walking places instead of using cars. Walking is an enjoyable exercise that is beneficial and user-friendly for nearly everyone.
Decreases in traffic deaths are deceptive
The national media has embraced walking and bicycling as important to developing healthful lifestyles; the effort to limit air pollution in congested cities has produced an economic incentive for city leaders to promote these activities as well. On the plus side, less vehicle traffic has been partially responsible for a decline in related fatalities. On the negative side, vehicle accidents involving bicyclists or pedestrians have risen sharply.
Efforts to produce safer motor vehicle transportation
Part of the decrease in vehicle collisions is due to positive actions. Today, drivers enjoy better-designed safety features, improvements in road construction, lower speed limits, prominent traffic signals and strategic routing to minimize vehicle collisions.
The good news for drivers does not apply to everyone. Cities now battle to stem the rising tide of an opposite reaction: Pedestrian deaths have risen by 45% while bicycle fatalities are up 25%. Municipal planners have not compensated for the fact that America’s iconic system of roadways primarily support motor vehicle traffic. Bicyclists and pedestrians—in spite of city attempts to mark street areas for them—are encroaching on motor vehicle drivers’ turf.
Driver attitudes have not changed
Adding to the confusion, aggressive drivers claim the roads. The attitude of sharing the road with other types of users is not present in most American towns and cities. Even though a patchwork of bike lanes or pedestrian crossings criss-cross cities, they are not consistent in either design or length, and drivers may ignore them.
Accidents happen when drivers are careful, too; a vehicle moves much faster than a bicycle or pedestrian, resulting in a failure to yield by motorists who do not even see the human obstacle in their path.
Bicycle riders and pedestrians need to take special care for personal safety. They do not have protection simply because they are traveling next to traffic in a no-vehicle zone or lane. Unprotected bicyclists and pedestrians have a right to seek compensation for vehicle harm suffered due to aggressive or distracted motor vehicle drivers.