Tuesday, August 30, 2011

ODOT Transportation Safety Plan Advocates for "Traffic Cone" Apparel

I'm a little late to the party, but ODOT is circulating a draft Transportation Safety Action Plan for public comment. By late, I mean comment period closes September 1st. Yeah, late.

Moreover I don't really know where this fits in the regulatory and administrative scheme of things.

Many of the recommendations are auto-centric rather than multi-modal. And they miss the obvious: If cars kill, then why not reduce our need for them? You know, make it easy for people to walk and bike!

But two things seemed worth mentioning specifically. In the list of actions (helpfully summarized here), two are not a little in tension with one another:
  • Increase emphasis on programs that will encourage bicycle travel.
  • Consider legislation requiring the inclusion of helmets, reflective gear and lighting with new bicycles.
By mandating orange "traffic cone" apparel, you send the message that bicycling is dangerous. It's not clear how this would "encourage" bike travel. Moreover, the goal should be to make it so that big road users like drivers of trucks and cars are less capable of harming small road users like people on foot and bike. The "traffic cone" approach to apparel and visibility for people on bike shifts the burden for safety onto the smaller road user - the likely victim - and potentially reduces the care with which large road users might drive.

(Why aren't cars safety orange? Why don't we mandate helmets in addition to seat belts for passengers and drivers in cars? etc, etc)

If you have read the plan or know more about it, what are your thoughts?


Melinda Filbert said...

All the lights, bright clothing is not a substitute for solid bicycle infrastructure and strong safety education for all transportation users. Just take a look any time of the week on a Copenhagen street. You don't see people wrapped in orange with multiple lights, etc. You see just the opposite - people wearing normal everyday clothing and even formal attire in cycle tracks and other designated bicycle lanes. Of course, Copenhagen and much of Northern Europe is like a different planet compared to the US. We are trying to find cheap solutions to reducing bicycle / pedestrian accidents instead of doing the tough and more expensive work needed to provide a safer environment for everyone. It also requires squeezing the car culture a bit and dealing with the push back that will inevitably happen.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

That's a great comparative observation! As you suggest, current "safety" efforts are generally mostly things to make it easy for people in cars to go fast rather than things to make it easy for multiple road users, not all of whom will be in cars. Mobility is about moving people, moving them in many different ways, not about moving cars only.