The League of American Bicyclists has launched a new website — Every Bicyclist Counts — that seeks to document each and every traffic-related bicycle fatality in the U.S.
It’s supposed to serve as a memorial to the cyclists who have died, gain information about the crashes, and track what happens in the courts after the crash.
In the process, I hope it doesn’t just scare the bejesus out of fledgling bicyclists who are considering more frequent riding.
Bicycling is generally safe, although there are risks. The task of the League and countless other bicycle advocacy groups has been to make the roads safer through legislation, improve highway design, and simply get more safety-conscious bicyclists onto the streets so motorists are more accustomed to them.
The latest traffic fatality figures from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration show that 618 bicyclists died in traffic-related crashes in 2010 — the lowest number since the numbers were first published in 1975. All traffic deaths totaled 32,885 people.
Andy Clarke, executive director of the League of American Bicyclists, recently made a plea for financial support for the website. A recent email actually made repeated requests for donations. He writes:
“We recently launched a new initiative – Every Bicyclist Counts - where we are documenting every cyclist fatality we hear about through newspaper and on-line reports, via e-mail and bike club discussion groups, blogs and newsletters.
We’re doing this to enable the family and friends of the victim’s to grieve, to celebrate the life of their loved one, and to share in the important process of preventing these needless tragedies from happening again. We’re also doing this to collect as much information as we can from official sources, to provide a space for input from those involved or affected by the crashes, and to track what happens after the crash. Thus far, we’ve entered more than 150 fatal crashes and we’re already learning a lot.”
It’s sad to scroll through the 99 fatalities listed on the website for 2012. Some of the write-ups include family photos of the victims and some background information about their lives and accomplishments.
Most, however, include synopses of newspaper or TV accounts of the fatal crashes, which are based on police reports. We all know how inaccurate these crash reports can become when passed through the filters and biases of police and reporters.
The write-ups also include summary crash data, like whether the crash was at an intersection or the open road, the time of day, and what type of crash — T-bone, right hook, etc. There’s also space for the legal status updates.
Hit and runs
Many of the bicyclist fatalities are hit-and-runs. Bicycle Colorado has been working to curb this despicable response by getting legislation passed that makes hit-and-run penalties more severe than DUI. That’s based on the premise that many DUI’s leave the scene because they’re less afraid of hit-and-run than drunken driving charges.
Let’s hope for the best for the League’s new website. It could prove worthwhile if it points up trends that haven’t already been discovered in federal crash tallies.
And it’s a good reminder that every person counts.