Fall 2002, p.2

Auto-Free World

Car Crashes Make Suburbs More Dangerous Than Cities
It is commonly assumed that suburbs are safer places to live and raise children than cities. But a new study reveals that people who live in the suburbs run a greater combined risk of being killed, either by a stranger or in a car crash, than those in center cities. The study, by University of Virginia urban and environmental planning professor William Lucy, examined homicide and traffic fatality rates in eight metropolitan areas from 1997 to 2000. While many of the central cities had higher rates of homicides by strangers than suburban counties, the relatively low homicide rates in the suburbs were overwhelmed by much higher rates of traffic fatalities. "I think the basic reason [suburbs are more dangerous] is that the people who live farther out are driving farther, they are going faster and they are driving on roads that are more dangerous," said Lucy.
CarFree Times

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Houston can legally ignore the interests of cyclists.Court Says Road Builders May Ignore Bicyclists
When the city of Houston and the local transportation authority decided to use federal highway funds to turn a portion of Louisiana Street into five one-way lanes with no provision for bicycles, Texas cyclist Dan Lundeen thought he had a case. After all, the federal "Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century" (TEA-21) states that all transportation projects "shall provide due consideration for safety and contiguous routes for bicyclists and pedestrians" and that "bicycle transportation facilities . . . shall be considered, where appropriate, in conjunction with all . . . reconstruction of transportation facilities." Lundeen sued the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, the local transportation authority and the City, asking the court to declare the project ineligible for federal transportation funding. He also sought to bar Houston--recently named the nation's "Worst Cycling City" by Bicycling Magazine--from enforcing its ordinance against bikes in bus lanes. (One of the proposed lanes would be for buses only.) Lundeen argued that, as a bicyclist, his personal safety on and enjoyment of Louisiana Street were threatened by the city's project. Unfortunately, the courts have not agreed. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which heard Lundeen's appeal, has affirmed the lower court, ruling that Houston may legally ignore the needs of cyclists in its road building projects. The court basically said that, while the law provides that highway projects should consider the needs of bicyclists, cyclists do not have standing to sue if those needs are ignored. The court did concede that the TEA-21 law was somewhat less than clear on this issue, so courts in other jurisdictions could rule differently.

For the court's decision, go to: www.ca5.uscourts.gov/opinions/pub/01/01-20605-cv0.htm 

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Strong enforcement equals fewer traffic deaths.Traffic Laws Reduce Crash Deaths
A study reported in the May 2002 issue of the British Medical Journal concludes that driver education and training programs have no effect on road safety. Instead, the researchers found that what really works in reducing road deaths is rigorously enforced traffic safety laws. In their study, "Reducing Motor Vehicle Crash Deaths and Injuries in Newly Motorising Countries," Brian O'Neill, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and Dinesh Mohan, professor of transportation safety at the Indian Institute of Technology, state that "virtually all" educational and training programs aimed at adult drivers show no evidence of effectiveness. Despite this, such efforts are still widely advocated as essential. Motorists agree that there are many "bad" drivers, but virtually all believe that the "bad" drivers are someone else. However, they stress that laws by themselves often are not sufficient: the key factor is drivers' perception that they run a high risk of being detected and punished for violating the law.
British Medical Journal

Cow Falls on Car, Driver Injured
Drivers in farming regions in Austria know to be on the lookout for animals that stray onto the road, but even the most cautious seldom scan the heavens for livestock.
A 36-year-old woman should have been doing that in June when a cow strayed from a hillside pasture to the top of a tunnel entrance and then fell onto her car.
The woman was hospitalized with minor chest and foot injuries. Her husband, in the passenger seat, was unharmed. The cow died after being hit when it fell 15 feet just as the car was leaving the tunnel.
Associated Press

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