Most Americans probably aren’t aware of this, but over 30,000 people will die on our nation’s roads and highways this year…most of them in automobile accidents. That’s almost three times as many people as will be killed by firearm violence. Of course, there’s a difference, right? Firearm violence is senseless. Motor vehicle violence is a necessary cost of living in a civilized society…
No, it isn’t. In fact, it’s every bit as senseless as any other type of violence. It’s also avoidable, provided we have the courage and collective will to do something about it. How so? Well consider this…traffic death rates in the five most bicycle crazy nations on the planet are a mere fraction of what they are in the US.
It wasn’t always this way. In fact, it was an unwillingness to accept stubbornly high traffic mortality rates that led the the Dutch to embrace the Stop de Kindermoord (Stop the Child Murder) movement that transformed the Netherlands from the car-centric nation it was in the early 1970s to the bicycle nirvana it is today.
What do the Dutch know that we don’t? Well, for starters they know that sharing the road leads to a safer journey for everyone, motorists included. They also know that they don’t have to live with an unacceptably high traffic mortality rate. The Scandinavian nations of Denmark, Norway and Sweden have done even better.
We can, too. In fact, we are already doing better in those states where bicycle culture is most advanced. I’ve pulled data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Highway Loss Data Institute. The most recent data that is available is for the year 2013. Here’s what it shows.
Bicycle friendly policies lead to safer roads for all users. This is true around the globe. It is true across America as well. If you want safer roads, it starts by supporting policies that elevate the rights of pedestrians and cyclists. I’ve been to Holland, Denmark and Sweden and I’ve seen the result of these policies first hand. Our roads don’t have to be killing zones. If you want to improve things, you can by asking for and supporting bicycle friendly policies in your community. The life you save may be your own or that of a loved one, even if you never saddle up and ride a bicycle yourself.