Giving Compass' Take:

• John Rennie Short reports that piecemeal efforts to make U.S. cities bike-friendly are creating confusion and leading to increased cycling and pedestrian deaths. 

• How can cities create truly bike- and pedestrian-friendly plans? 

• Learn about equity issues in bike-friendly cities


As cities strive to improve the quality of life for their residents, many are working to promote walking and biking. Such policies make sense, since they can, in the long run, lead to less traffic, cleaner air and healthier people. But the results aren’t all positive, especially in the short to medium term.

In Washington D.C., for example, traffic fatalities as a whole declined in 2018 compared to the year before, but the number of pedestrian and bicyclist deaths increased by 20 percent. Pedestrian deaths also have risen in New York, and pedestrian and cycling fatalities have increased in Los Angeles in the past several years.

Across the nation, cyclist fatalities have increased by 25 percent since 2010 and pedestrian deaths have risen by a staggering 45 percent. More people are being killed because cities are encouraging residents to walk and bike, but their roads are still dominated by fast-moving vehicular traffic. As my research has shown, this shifting mix can be deadly.

In the 21st century, a new city ideal has emerged of a more bike-friendly, walking-oriented city. But piecemeal implementation of bike lanes, pedestrianized zones and traffic calming measures often just adds to the confusion.

Many bike lanes and pedestrianized zones only extend for short distances. Most American drivers have yet to fully appreciate that urban streets are to be shared. And even in the best of times, cars and trucks are not good at sharing the road. Vehicle drivers are often moving too fast to identify and respond to pedestrians and bicyclists. Blind spots for drivers can be death traps for other road users.

Then there’s the asymmetry. Drivers are operating fast-moving lethal weapons, and are encased in a protective shield. And speed literally kills. A car hitting a pedestrian at 36 to 45 mph per hour is four times more likely to cause death than a vehicle traveling between 26 to 30 mph.

Read the full article about the safety of cyclists and pedestrians by John Rennie Short at The Conversation.