US Representative Rick Larsen has teamed up with two other members of the US House to look into whether American conventional road engineering standards are putting people who bike and walk at disproportionate risk (spoiler: Yes).
Specifically, Larsen (WA-2, much of western Snohomish and Skagit Counties as well as Island and San Juan County), Peter DeFazio (OR-4) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC) sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office requesting a report on how many engineering encourage speeding:
Furthermore, we are concerned that conventional engineering practices have encouraged engineers to design roads at 5-15 miles per hour faster than the posted speed for the street. This typically means roads are designed and built with wider, straighter lanes and have fewer objects near the edges, more turn lanes, and wider turning radii at intersections. While these practices improve driving safety, a suspected unintended consequence is that drivers travel faster when they feel safer. Greater speeds can increase the frequency and severity of crashes with pedestrians and cyclists who are moving at much slower speeds and have much less protection than a motorized vehicle affords.
The requested study should “investigate the trends and causes of these roadway fatalities and the challenges associated with improving pedestrian and cyclist safety. In particular, we are interested in information about the relationship between vehicle speed and roadway fatalities, and how roadway design speeds and other common practices may exacerbate this problem,” according to the letter. Continue reading