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Investigative Series on Transpo Safety Overlooks Most Vulnerable Travelers

9:22 AM PDT on September 28, 2010

Anyone who’s ever navigated a crosswalk at a major suburban arterial, or pedaled forward while a semi-truck speeds past at arm’s reach, knows what it’s like to travel dangerously. So it’s disappointing to learn that a new investigative report on transportation safety skirts over the perspective of cyclists and pedestrians.

A new report explores transportation safety, mainly from the perspective of the windshield. Photo: News 21
A new report explores transportation safety, mainly from the perspective of the windshield. Photo: News 21

In their 21-part Traveling Dangerously in America series, the Center for Public Integrity and News 21 take a critical look at the federal agency responsible for major crash investigation and safety recommendations: the National Transportation Safety Board. The report exposes a lack of coordination between government transportation agencies and offers specific recommendations — for planes, trains and automobiles.

Richard Layman at Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space, points out the oversight:

The series misses important mobility safety issues concerning walking and biking — mobility modes that don’t typically involve the National Transportation Safety Board, which focuses on high profile accidents involving railroads, transit, airlines, highways, and other infrastructure.

So systematic and systemic failures in dealing with pedestrian and bicycle related accidents, such as weak accident investigation procedures on the part of most local police departments, where police officers, perhaps without intending to do so, tend to favor the motor vehicle when investigating, and gaps in the law that favor motor vehicle drivers at the expense of pedestrians and bicyclists, remain unaddressed.

There is no equivalent of the NTSB advocating for fairer treatment and greater concern when it comes to pedestrians and bicyclists.

The report does, however, make some recommendations that could improve bike and pedestrian safety by holding motorists to higher standards. For example, the series presses for the installation of black boxes inside motor vehicles that would record data that could be used to determine fault in an accident.

Layman also makes the point that local blogs, like WashCycle and Greater Greater Washington in the DC area, are drawing attention to the issue of bicycle and pedestrian safety even as government agencies and the media sidestep the topic.

Elsewhere on the Network today: The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia looks at discrepancies in the media’s handling of two sets of collisions involving cyclists. Biking Toronto asks whether its worthwhile to take mayoral candidates on a police-escorted bike tour of downtown. And Oregon Live’s Hard Drive blog reports that Tri-Met is looking at ways to trim the budget for its Portland-Milwaukie light rail line, after federal funding fell short of expectations.

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