Whose safety? The race of Detroit bicycle & pedestrian fatalities

Studies show that building Complete Streets designed for safer bicyclist and pedestrian travel saves lives. Complete Streets even reduce crashes for motorists by reducing bad behavior.

Studies show that adding on-road bike lanes can cut bicycle-vehicle collisions in half. Bike lanes, bump outs, and medians also reduce pedestrian collisions by effectively shortening the crosswalks.

Complete Streets are invaluable in Detroit given the large number of people dying on our roads each year.

In 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found Detroit has 6.79 pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 residents — the most of any major U.S. city. That 58% higher than second place Dallas with 4.31. Absolutely unacceptable.

They also reported Detroit’s bicycle fatality rate at 1.48 per 100,000 residents, which is for 26th among the 34 largest U.S. cities. Since bicycle fatalities fluctuate more year to year, we’re not sure how valuable this ranking is.

NHTSA also keeps all road fatalities in their Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) that includes race. We thought it would be interesting to see how bicycle and pedestrian fatalities aligned with Detroit’s overall demographics.

As it turns out, they align very closely.

2010-2016 Detroit Bicycle and Pedestrian Fatalities

 All Residents (2010)Fatalities
Black83%84%
White8%8%
Latino7%5%

Looking at just bicyclists, there were 20 fatalities in Detroit between 2010 and 2016. Among them, 17 were Black (89%), 1 was Mexican, 1 was White/Non-Hispanic, and 1 was unknown.

The average age among these fatalities? 46 years old. 73% are men though that is trending downward.

Some have said we’re building Complete Streets and bike lanes for the new Detroit — a more white, more young. That’s not the case. We’re building them for all, but especially to decrease road fatalities.

The data shows we have a great opportunity to do that.

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