Baltimore has become a very popular city with cycling enthusiasts. However, with that popularity comes increasing number of cyclists on city streets, sharing lanes with passenger cars, motor-powered two-wheelers, large SUVs and commercial trucks of all types. Whether you’re an optimist or not, recent data may have bicycle riders grinning ear-to-ear while at the same time looking over their collective shoulders more than ever.
According to Transportation for America (TOA), the pedestrian and bicycle safety organization, over 76,000 Americans have been killed in the past 15 years simply crossing the roads in their very own communities.
As Maryland personal injury lawyers, I and my colleagues offer legal services to individuals hurt in bicycle and automobile-related accidents. Many of these accidents are caused, sadly, by the negligence of motorists or because of commercial trucking accidents. As injury attorneys, all of us have sensed the pain and seen the suffering that can follow a cycling accident resulting from a car or truck crash. It goes without saying that the medical costs associated with treatment and rehabilitation from such accidents can become quite expensive.
The TOA’s report on pedestrian injuries and fatalities nationwide ranked metropolitan areas in terms of accident frequency for persons on foot as well as on bicycles. The shocking part of the study for this office was the authors’ description of the total deaths across the nation as being equivalent to a commercial airliner crashing with a full passenger load once a month.
Transportation for America points out that nearly 4,000 children under 16 years have been killed so far in the 2000s. Based on the TOA’s numbers, the study stated that children, the elderly and infirm individuals, and ethnic minorities are over-represented when it comes to total death count.
The study also pointed out that while many pedestrian deaths (which in this case includes not only persons on foot but also bicycle riders) are typically termed “accidents,” suggesting an error either on the part of the motor vehicle operator or the person on foot or on his or her bike. However, the TOA stresses that a large percentage of supposed accidents occurred along roadways that were, as they term it, “dangerous by design.” This is to say, that maybe the blame should be aimed at poor roadway and sidewalk design, rather than at the drivers, pedestrians and cyclists who use those walkways and streets.
With 2.9 percent of all workers in the city walking (or biking) to their places of employment, Baltimore was given a 61.9 on the TOA’s “Pedestrian Danger Index.” This correlates to the city’s average annual pedestrian death rate of 1.82 pedestrian fatalities for every 100,000 Baltimore residents.
While that may hardly seem like cause for celebration, consider that Florida had four separate metropolitan areas that topped the danger index ratings, scoring between 157 and 221. Obviously, there is still a lot that needs to be done, or so says Transportation for America. Maryland ranks second to last of all 50 states when it comes to spending for pedestrian and bicycle projects versus fatalities statewide. With cyclists and pedestrians making up nearly 20 percent of all traffic deaths in the state, lass than one percent of federal funding dollars has gone toward pedestrian- and bicycle-related traffic safety projects in recent years.
Dangerous By Design, Transportation for America