Less safe roads for bikes and peds

SEMCOG issued a press release highlighting their analysis of the 2009 crash data. When it comes to their non-motorized crash analysis, we find it to be very superficial. This year is no different.

We did more year-to-year comparison and found some unreported and disturbing trends.

What SEMCOG says: “Bicycle crashes down – Traffic crashes … involving bicycles decreased just less than one percent in 2009 from 2008. There were … 967 crashes involving bikes in 2009.”

What the data shows: While there were fewer total bicycle crashes, that is primarily due to there being fewer minor crashes that left the bicyclist uninjured. Incapacitating injuries among cyclists increased significantly. The number of serious (fatal or incapacitating) bicycle crashes are up over 16 percent!

This is especially alarming given that statewide bicycling fatalities are down 24%. And, motorist fatalities within the SEMCOG region dropped by 5%.

In 2009, 47% percent of all Michigan bicycle fatalities were within the SEMCOG region as opposed to 36% in 2008.

The number of bicyclists involved in a crash increased slightly this year as well.

What SEMCOG says: “Pedestrian crashes down – Crashes in Southeast Michigan involving pedestrians totaled 1,180 in 2009; this represents a two percent decrease from 2008.”

What the data shows: While pedestrian crashes are down, pedestrian fatalities are up 4.5%. Statewide, pedestrian fatalities are up 6.1%.

In 2008, non-motorized fatalities made up 21% of all road fatalities within the SEMCOG region. In 2009, that percentage climbed to 23%.

Also in the press release, SEMCOG Executive Director Paul Tait says, “We are happy to report this continuing decline in traffic crashes in Southeast Michigan. A number of factors contribute to this downward trend, including the poor economy, higher gas prices, fewer vehicle miles traveled, and higher safety belt usage.”

If higher gas prices and fewer vehicle miles traveled meant safer roads in 2009, then why aren’t those goals within the Michigan’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan? It’s obvious that one of the most efficient ways of decreasing serious road injuries would be to reduce the vehicle miles traveled. It’s proven itself in 2009, yet it’s not part of the plan to improve road safety. Why not? Is the lack of political leadership trumping safety?

And, SEMCOG’s Camine Palombo commented on their analysis by concluding, “Finally – some news we can be proud of!”

We don’t agree.

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