As the feel-good-edness of Bike Week wears off, I’d like to point your attention to maps getting some attention in the blogosphere. They were produced by UC Berkeley’s Transportation Injury Mapping System and show pedestrian and cycling injuries and deaths in relation to their proximity to schools between the years of 2006 and 2008.
One of the maps — for the northern part of the city of Los Angeles — is above. There are dozens of such maps available for throughout the state available at the above website.
To put the above maps into context, here are some very grim statistics:
•4,872 pedestrian and cycling deaths in the U.S. in 2009, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
•563 pedestrians and 99 cyclists killed in California in 2009, according to the NHTSA’s state charts.
•166 pedestrians and 22 cyclists killed in Los Angeles County in 2009, according to the NHTSA’s county charts for California.
It is important to consider that the above maps and charts do not show who was at fault in an accident. I can tell you that pretty much every time I walk, bike, drive or take transit anywhere locally, I see examples of jaywalking, unsafe cycling amid and among motor traffic and — MOST OF ALL — inattentive and/or poor driving.
And while on my soapbox, I also see plenty of: poorly marked crosswalks and/or poorly maintained or constructed sidewalks; an embarrassing lack of bike lanes and paths for an area with our topography and climate; and extreme lack of enforcement of walking, biking and driving laws by police.
A lot of media attention is rightly paid to accidents involving transit and pedestrians/cyclists/motorists. But a lot of attention isn’t paid to the types of everyday accidents that are actually more prevalent.
It shouldn’t take a mayor breaking an elbow to prompt better bike lanes, nor should it take a child being hit by a car near school to get better crosswalks. It’s a matter of urban planning at the most basic and humane level and it’s with great hope that citizens and politicians alike will study these maps and grasp what they really mean.
As for safety resources, here is the Metro website’s bike page and here is a page about safety around and on buses and trains.
It seems that the commenter who pointed me to the data about accidents in marked vs. unmarked crosswalks was a victim of the blog blow-up. Oh well.
I had a chance to read some of the article linked, which says in the abstract, “The study results revealed that on two-lane roads, the presence of a marked crosswalk alone at an uncontrolled location was associated with no difference in pedestrian crash rate, compared to an unmarked crosswalk. Further, on multilane roads with traffic volumes above about 12,000 vehicles per day, having a marked crosswalk alone (without other substantial improvements) was associated with a higher pedestrian crash rate (after controlling for other site factors)compared to an unmarked crosswalk.”
So apparently marking crosswalks either has no effect or causes more pedestrian accidents, unless you create additional improvements such as a raised median. Which isn’t different from what I said in the first place.
Looking at the map in more detail… I’d also like to see this controlled for density. It appears that there are much larger numbers of pedestrian and cycle injuries and fatalities in Downtown Los Angeles, which doesn’t surprise me at all given the density of origins and destinations, as well as the high transit use which fosters pedestrian and cycle activity. I would also expect auto accidents to be more frequent in denser areas, and would be interested to know if there’s any difference between the impact of density on pedestrian/cycle accidents, and the impact on auto accidents.
Except… “better crosswalks” often lead to MORE pedestrian accidents, rather than less. Drivers don’t necessarily stop or slow at crosswalks, while pedestrians may have a false sense of security.
Solar-powered flashing crosswalks can help for mid-block crossings, but adding a crosswalk (or a stop sign) won’t necessarily address the problem. And this is something “transportation planners” (or at least transportation engineers) know, and have known for a long time.
How do these rates compare to per-mile rates of death and injury in car crashes? Are children safer on the sidewalk or in the car? I’m inclined to think the former, but many would believe the latter. A neighbor offered to drive our six-year-old the two blocks to school in her van, with no carseat (he’s well under 60 lbs. and 4’9″, the minimum recommended weight and height for seatbelt-alone travel), because of her perception that he’d be safer than if he walks across the one largish residential street (crossing right in front of our house, with us there watching). How many kids are put at risk by being piled into cars unsafely, because we make much of pedestrian accidents without real comparison?