About 85 million adults and children ride their bikes every year.1 For children and teens, the bicycle is a primary means of transportation when traveling independently. Every morning an estimated half million people bike to work in the United States.2 However, injuries do occur. Each year, more than 500,000 bicyclists of all ages sustain a cycling injury that requires emergency department care.3 Of the approximately 800 bicyclists killed annually,4 about 750 are killed in traffic crashes.5 Perhaps not surprisingly, more than half of the bicyclists riding in or near traffic report feeling unsafe.6
In a nation where traffic is increasing and roadways are becoming more congested, we must, to the best of our collective ability, ensure the safety of all roadway users.
National Bicycle Safety Conference
A critical step was taken when a group of safety experts and advocates, bicycling enthusiasts, and government agency representatives met in Washington, DC on July 21-22, 2000 to develop a national agenda for bicycling safety. The conference was sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Federal Highway Administration, and the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center. No one present at that meeting could recall a time when such a diverse group had been convened or when government representatives had sat down with cycling advocates to plan significant policy and strategies around bicycling and bicycle safety.
The conference format was crafted to focus discussion on five practical issues that, once accomplished, will substantially advance the safety of bicyclists. These topics were:
Topic experts in each of these areas were commissioned to write "white papers" in advance of the conference and present those papers at the onset of the conference. Each paper addressed key issues in that area, described why the topic is important to bicycle safety, and proposed potential solutions to enhance safety. These white papers were provided to conference participants in advance of the conference and will be published in a separate document summarizing the conference proceedings.
The white papers set the tone for conference discussions, which centered first on outlining key strategies for advancing each area and then detailing critical actions needed to implement those strategies. The National Strategies for Advancing Bicycle Safety (termed "bicycle safety agenda" or "agenda" in this document) is the product of the conference.
Focus of the National Strategies for Advancing Bicycle Safety
Bicycling safety, not bicycling use, is the central theme of the National Strategies for Advancing Bicycle Safety. Although strategies that increase bicycle use can complement this agenda, the focus here is on safety and public health issues that are not adequately covered in other efforts.
The document, National Strategies for Advancing Bicycle Safety, does not stand alone. Rather, it should be viewed as a "next steps" guide to accompany other documents, including:
This document supplements these other plans by providing specific strategies for achieving the bicycle-related goals, as well as specific action steps that are needed to accomplish those strategies.
The strategies outlined in this document are considered to be those that can be initiated and largely completed within a three-to-five-year time frame. In addition, these strategies are expected to build strong local support and capacity for efforts to improve safe bicycling. As these approaches are implemented or completed, it is expected that other ideas will take their place in the National Strategies for Advancing Bicycle Safety.
Ultimately, the National Strategies for Advancing Bicycle Safety is only useful if it leads to commitment and consequent action by a host of groups. In this process, the role of the federal government was to convene interested parties and encourage their mutual collaboration, rather than dictate a particular approach. Accordingly, the government convened a group of thoughtful, concerned people to help produce a constructive framework for action. However, it was never intended for government agencies to be solely responsible for carrying out these suggested steps, whether through funding or policy changes. Instead, the conference participants produced a constructive framework for action that could help guide the work of individuals and organizations committed to increasing safe bicycling. Accordingly, we invite you to consider these recommendations carefully and add your talents and resources, wherever they may lie, to make bicycling safer for all.