Eighth Bicyclist of Year Killed by Motorists
It doesn't help that Wisconsin became the first state to repeal a Complete Streets law.
We learned two days ago of yet another bicycle crash fatality, Wisconsin’s eighth this year. Donna David, 53, died when she was struck on Highway T in the Town of McMillan in Marathon County. No details about the crash were available at this time, but we know from this article in the De Moines Register, she was training for RAGBRAI
And we learned more yesterday about the 11-year-old boy who died after a crash on University Avenue in Madison. Matthew Court was a fifth grader about to start middle school and a talented young jazz musician. His father gave a deeply touching interview to the Wisconsin State Journal.
We typically see 10 bike fatalities in an average year, and this is eight already in July. What’s going on? It’s impossible to know for sure: one problem with analyzing fatal bike crashes is that with so few (thankfully) occurring we can’t arrive at any statistically reliable conclusions. A likely cause is that there are simply more of us out there – bike commuting has risen 62 percent in the last decade – and vehicle miles driven by autos may also be rising again after years of decline. In short, there just could be more opportunities for bikes and motorized vehicles to mix.
The fatal crash numbers are so small that the variations from year to year are probably statistically insignificant. Of course, our goal is to make that number zero so we look at every crash to see how it might have been avoided. Adding more and better facilities, expanding our education and working more with law enforcement have been Wisconsin’s recipe for improved bicycle safety.
But that is all the more reason we need to continue to invest in safe bicycle infrastructure. For example, while Madison does well with a growing number of miles of dedicated bike paths and other facilities, there was no really safe way for Matthew Court to cross University Avenue near where the crash occurred.
Over the decades we’ve spent billions studying and improving the safety of highways and streets for motor vehicles. Those investments have paid off with vehicle crash fatalities plummeting in part due to safer cars, but in large part also due to those public investments. We need to have the same approach to bicycling. For a fraction of the cost of those road improvements (it was estimated that Complete Streets cost .006 percent of the state transportation budget) we could keep making progress so that fewer of these tragedies take place in the future.
In the meantime, let’s hope we don’t have to read about another bike fatality this year.
This article was originally published by the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin.