|Santa Fe bicycle crash map. |
Credits to SFPD and the New Mexican
First, I was concerned that not a single member of the BTAC or any other cycling organization or cyclist was quoted for the article. I don't know if the reporter contacted cyclists or BTAC members. The result is a focus on who was at fault in crashes rather than on root causes such as how design affects behavior (flagrant use of cell phones and other forms of lawbreaking notwithstanding). I attended the May BTAC meeting where the police presented their study and indeed, it focused more on the actual crashes than on the role of design although the BTAC and audience members did bring design into the conversation. Also, before I forget, I don't think adding signage fixes bad underlying design. The sign on the hideous St. Francis/Cerrillos/Railrunner crossing warning cyclists not to crash on the tracks comes to mind, i.e., "we goofed, so don't get killed here".
|My friend and fellow cycling advocate, |
the late Dr. Gail Ryba,
worked tirelessly to improve cycling conditions
for Santa Fe's cyclists and fought the NMDOT
over its redesign of St. Francis Drive
In a glaring omission perhaps understandable, no one questioned the role of infrastructure as bearing on "fault". That's not surprising because police are charged with deciding who made a mistake or committed a citeable offense that causes a crash, not whether the infrastructure is properly designed to be shared or whether design contributes to human failure or misuse. So looking at this study, its not surprising that Councilor Mike Harris thinks that operator error is the major problem.
But if you look at the crash map in the article, which I have included above, the major state managed arterials are heavily represented. Many studies have been written about the role of infrastructure in increasing or decreasing crash frequency and risk, i.e., the Vision Zero concepts. For example, as far as turning and crossing crashes, which the study said are a major cause of crashes, its hard enough for motorists and cyclists to see each other at a busy intersection but when you make the roads extremely wide such as the Cerrillos, St. Francis, and St. Michaels arterials, aka "stroads", picking out small vehicles or pedestrians in busy traffic is even tougher on a wide multilane design. But to be fair, these three arterials are state roads under the jurisdiction of the State of New Mexico Dept. of Transportation, so its not clear to me if the city has the authority to change or influence the design.
The article says most cycling crashes involve male cyclists, but doesn't tell us whether the cycling population is overwhelmingly male. One might wonder if male cyclists are risk-takers. But at least some sources indicate that male road cyclists far outnumber female road cyclists in the U.S. so the proportion might just statistically represent each population within the city. We don't know.
I just moved here so I don't want to go around condemning people or institutions. That said, I spent a dozen years on the Los Alamos Transportation Board (often enough as chair or vice-chair), wrote or contributed to three urban bike plans and a complete streets ordinance, and am a longtime League Cycling Instructor who twice reviewed Santa Fe's Bicycle Friendly Community application. I am a little perplexed that this article or the police study it covers did not take on a broader, deeper scope and talk to a few more people. The city has been making great strides in providing trails and other resources for cyclists but in a city where it is still more practicable to get from Here to There and Back Again on the roads, we need to pay attention to roadway design, not just decide who gets the traffic ticket.