Drivers cause most bicycle and pedestrian accidents in Maryland. Driver negligence, however, is not the only factor involved in serious collisions. Sometimes, a roadway or crosswalk’s design contributes to bicycle and pedestrian accidents. Negligent urban planning and poor roadway maintenance cause deadly collisions each year. In 2018, the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration recorded 3,294 pedestrian and 742 bicycle accidents. These collisions caused hundreds of injuries and took many lives. Better urban planning could have the power to prevent vulnerable roadway user accidents in Maryland.
While it is important to focus on driver education and changing human behaviors, city engineering can also play a role in preventing bicycle and pedestrian accidents. City planners have a responsibility to design and create reasonably safe roadways. In doing so, they should not only focus on the needs of drivers but also the road’s most vulnerable users: pedestrians and cyclists. City planners can use several proven strategies and design elements to improve pedestrian safety.
Smart city engineering should reduce traffic speeds in high pedestrian traffic areas, focus on complete streets, create safe bicycle lanes and give pedestrians safe spaces to walk. The design of a roadway and its surrounding sidewalks, bike paths and crosswalks could drastically improve vulnerable road user safety. Better urban design in Maryland’s busiest cities could reduce the number of injured and killed bicyclists and pedestrians each year.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) recognizes the need for city leaders to tackle road challenges, spread safety awareness and decrease the risk of accidents. DOT created the Mayor’s Challenge as a way to motivate community leaders to take responsibility for roadway safety. The Mayor’s Challenge led to 80 communities making changes and submitting their progress reports to DOT in one year alone. Communities that took on the Mayor’s Challenge focused on seven main tasks.
The Mayor’s Challenge encompassed all the steps a city needs to take to reasonably ensure the safety of its most vulnerable road users. These seven urban planning priorities could change the landscape of a city for bicyclists and pedestrians. Mayors and other city leaders can take the DOT challenge to motivate real change in their communities. Several cities in Maryland took the challenge and have already improved problem areas on their roads, crosswalks and sidewalks.
If you believe your city has inherent urban planning problems that contribute to traffic-human collisions, file a complaint with city representatives. Raise awareness of the issue in your community by notifying city leaders and hosting safety meetings in your neighborhood. Become a pedestrian/bicyclist advocate by educating others using crash facts. Advocating for better urban planning could push for real change in your community, and may prevent devastating traffic accidents in the future.