Bicycle use is in the midst of a major national resurgence. Due to crowded city streets, troubling environmental problems, and a call for healthier lifestyles, more people are choosing to ride their bikes to work rather than drive or use public transportation. No one is more excited about this movement than the League of American Bicyclists, who are hosting the National Bike Summit this week in Washington D.C. “Bicycling is the ultimate expression of freedom and independence,” wrote the group’s leaders in a recent position paper. “It’s fun, and it’s good for you. What’s not to like about that?”
Well, according to some car drivers, there’s a lot not to like about more cyclists on the road. Without sufficient safety improvements on city streets, more cyclists means the increased risk of colliding with someone while making a turn or accidentally hitting someone with your door while exiting the vehicle. Cyclists are not to blame for these types of accidents. But cities that do not update their traffic procedures to make way for cyclists should certainly hold the responsibility for making everyone safer.
Last year, there were 603 bicycle accident deaths nationwide and 99 here in California alone. That’s enough to make some would-be bicycle commuters too afraid to make the switch to commuting to work. A few major California cities have already made steps toward improving bicycle safety. San Francisco, for example, is making permanent a test plan to make Market Street, the city’s main artery for bicyclists, more available for bike traffic. And the Los Angeles city council unanimously approved a bicycle plan last week that would add 1,700 miles of bikeways throughout the city over 5 years. “We’ve always given the automobile the priority, and the bicycles were secondary,” said Councilman Ed Reyes. “Now we’re changing and we’re having a cultural shift.”
That cultural shift is being felt nationwide, where many cities are at a crossroads that appears destined to end with more bicycle paths and an increased attention to bicycle safety. As StreetsBlog reports this week, the push for bicycle lanes separated by a barrier from vehicle traffic will be one of the most popular measures among bicycle safety advocates at this week’s National Bike Summit.
Discussion of measures like these is essential. But at this year’s National Bike Summit, I’m hoping that participants will make a major push toward influencing lawmakers to pass legislation that will make a serious dent in the country’s traffic accident deaths. Last week, a group of Senators announced a plan designed to cut car accident deaths by 50 percent by 2050. If bicycle advocates can brainstorm clear goals that will make a similar impact when it comes to bicycle accident deaths, than this year’s National Bike Summit will be an undisputed success.
We’ll be following the bike summit all week. Follow StreetsblogSF and the League of American Bicyclists for more great reports and information.
Photo credit: tuppus