The Role of Our Cities in Upholding Pedestrian and Cyclist Safety

blurry image of women riding bikes

American cities play an important role in helping to maintain the safety of cyclists and pedestrians. Fortunately, the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports that numerous cities and states around the nation are implementing various efforts to help enhance pedestrian and cyclist safety. In 2015, U.S. Department of transportation secretary Anthony Foxx challenged mayors and elected officials throughout the U.S. to take “significant action to improve safety for bicycle riders and pedestrians of all ages and abilities,” and the challenge received an overwhelming response.

Steps that Cities Can Take to Improve Pedestrian and Cyclist Safety

While the challenges involved with creating safer conditions for non-motorists are many, success can be achieved in a variety of ways.

  • Taking a “Complete Streets” approach: A successful Complete Streets approach like the one implemented by the city of Chicago helps to ensure that all individuals can travel safely throughout the city regardless of the mode of transportation they choose.
  • Identifying and Addressing Barriers: By identifying and addressing barriers that travelers of all ages and abilities are faced with, cities can make their communities safer, more convenient and more accessible for everyone.
  • Improving and Enforcing Safety Laws and Regulations: Bicyclists and pedestrians can enjoy safer streets when speed limits are lowered, traffic violations are addressed, and laws involving bicycle helmets, distracted driving, bicycle lighting and other safety regulations are developed and enforced.
  • Educating Motorists and Non-Motorists: Pedestrian and cyclist injuries and fatalities can significantly be reduced by ensuring that motorists and non-motorists alike are well educated about bicycle and pedestrian safety. Creating public awareness about behaviors that raise the risk of accidents and the penalties that could accompany those behaviors has been very effective for many cities.

The United States Department of Transportation reports that while bicycle and pedestrian accidents can occur almost anywhere, they are approximately four times more common in large urban communities, and twice as common in small to midsize cities than they are in rural areas. In fact, large urban areas account for about 73 percent of all pedestrian deaths and approximately 69 percent of cyclist fatalities throughout the United States. It is hoped that by recognizing their role in bicycle and pedestrian safety, cities will be able to reverse the trend of increased injuries and fatalities in their communities.