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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Do ‘Ghost Bikes’ Show Failures Of Road Sharing?

(AP)A "ghost bike" stands along U.S. 401 in Raleigh, N.C. near the spot where a cyclist was struck by a truck and killed in July. (AP)A so-called ghost bike in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Robin Young/Here & Now)A ghost bike, spotted by listener Kristan Otto Abeshouse.Listener Maurice Weintraub sent this photo of a ghost bike honoring his friend Pat Ytsma. "A great friend, father, husband,  son, architect, artist and painter.  Loved biking, more reflective tape than anyone, was struck Dec 4, 2011 and died 4 days later," Weintraub writes. (Anthony Skorochod/ Nick Drombosky sent along this photo. He writes, "This bike was placed in Indiana Township, just north of Pittsburgh, to memorialize Don Parker. Parker, a husband and father of three, was killed while riding his bicycle to work. The driver, a student at the local high school, struck and killed Parker from behind while his head was under the dash trying to fix his flip-flop. The driver faced no punishment."

During the Democratic Convention in Charlotte, Here & Now‘s Robin Young spotted a bicycle that was painted white and locked to a telephone pole.

It was a memorial to Cris-Cris Potts, who was 13 years old when she was hit while riding her bike and killed. There are now two new ghost bikes in Boston, where two bicyclists were killed within days of each other.

Numbers On Cyclist Deaths

The League of American Bicyclists estimates that at least 700 cyclists are killed in U.S. traffic accidents each year. And the New York Times reports on an increase in deaths of cyclists and pedestrians after a five-year decline in New York, that echoes a national increase in traffic fatalities altogether.

“The more bicyclists that motorists see, the more cognizant they are of us out on the road.”

– Carolyn Szczepanski, The League of American Bicyclists

Is it possible that the move to get more people on bikes in a world filled with cars just isn’t working?

Carolyn Szczepanski, of the bike safety and education lobbying group The League of American Bicyclists, tracks cyclist deaths across the country and sees a number of issues.

“As you see the number of bicyclists out on the street increase that could be a cause of the increased number of fatalities,” she told Here & Now‘s Robin Young. “But also we’re very heartened by the fact that there’s safety in numbers. The more bicyclists that motorists see, the more cognizant they are of us out on the road.”

Szczepanski also advises communities across the country on how to make cycling safer.

Steps Communities Can Take

1.) Infrastructure: Szczepanski says protected bike lanes are becoming more commonplace and are helpful, she also praises pavement markings that indicate the right of cyclists to be on that road.

2.) Promotions: Events like “Bike to Work Day” can help get more people out on their bicycles

3.) Education: Szczepanski touts her group’s bicycle skills and safety program as a way to teach cyclists  where to ride on the road and how to maneuver on the streets in predictable ways that allow them to operate in the flow of traffic

4.) Public Awareness: Ryan Knuckle of the Ghost Bike Project in New York City says the city is putting signs and videos about cycling in taxi cabs. They’re even changing taxi cab designs to have sliding doors instead of swinging doors to prevent cyclists from being hit by doors swinging open, he says.


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Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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