BLACKSBURG— As Bicyclist and Pedestrian Awareness Month approaches, every road user should be mindful of an alarming uptick in nationwide fatalities involving walkers and bikers.
Transportation planners and officials learned more details at September’s DRIVE SMART Virginia Distracted Driving Summit in Blacksburg. Virginia Farm Bureau was among the event’s sponsors.
Senior transportation planner Michael Farrell is bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ Street Smart program. He promotes safety campaigns in the densely populated D.C. region, which includes several Northern Virginia counties.
Pedestrian fatalities have risen post-COVID 19, hitting a 40-year high in 2021 across the U.S. Then, drivers struck and killed 3,434 pedestrians in just the first six months of 2022, up 5% from the same period in 2021.
“Our own region is no exception,” Farrell said. “We had an increase of pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities in 2022 that was 37% over 2021, which basically wipes out 20 years’ worth of progress reducing these fatalities.”
DSV’s 2022 annual report showed 171 pedestrians and 11 bicyclists were killed on Virginia roadways. Additionally, 529 cyclists and 1,390 pedestrians were injured.
Regional police departments increased enforcement last spring, ticketing drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists who break traffic safety laws. Fines range from $40 to $500.
One resounding message for non-motorists—be safe, be seen. Bike lights help.
“And wear something reflective, especially in the fall, because that’s when we have the most pedestrian crashes, in October and November, when the weather is better for walking,” Farrell explained.
The following are safety tips from BeStreetSmart.net:
Avoid distractions, and stop for pedestrians at crosswalks.
Be cautious when passing buses or stopped vehicles.
When turning, yield to walkers and cyclists, and look for bikes before opening your door.
Be especially careful if you drive a large vehicle with blind spots.
Cross the street at the corner, and use marked crosswalks when available.
Use the push-buttons, and wait for the crossing signal. Look left, right and left again before crossing.
Be aware of blind spots around trucks and buses.
Avoid using your cell phone while crossing the street.
Never ride against traffic. Stay in a straight line at least 3 feet from parked cars.
Use hand signals to communicate with motorists.
Wear a helmet, and use lights at night and when visibility is poor.
Submitted by Virginia Farm Bureau