How to Not Get Hit by Cars - By Maureen Gaffney
“Safety” is an elusive word, an elusive concept. Miriam-Webster says “the condition of being safe from undergoing or causing hurt, injury, or loss.” It also explained a “situation in football…” but I don’t know what it was cause I stopped reading as soon as the words ‘foot’ and ‘ball’ were cojoined on the page. It is not possible to be truly safe while still being alive. You can be the most conservative of persons, adorn yourself with bubble wrap, never leave home, order in, (sans the bubble wrap, sounds like 2020…), and still an errant meteor could find you as you watch, say—football. Just ask a dinosaur. Stuff happens.
Assuming a relatively “normal” modern American existence, one that involves work, play, errands, kids and maybe pets, we are out in the world doing things that expose us to hurt, injury or loss. And of course the most dangerous thing the average person does every single day with nary a thought to its inherent danger is driving/riding in a car. And for those of us who cycle or walk city streets, being on the outside of a speeding metal box on wheels is particularly precarious. Over 850 cyclists and more than 6,000 pedestrians were killed by vehicles in 2018. More than six thousand pedestrians.
Information provided on the eternally useful People for Bikes website suggests that cities with high bicycling rates tend to have lower crash rates for all road users (Marshall, W., and N. Garrick, 2011 - Evidence on why bike-friendly cities are safer for all road users, Environmental Practice, 13, 1)
“The analysis included accounting for crashes across all severity levels, as well as for three classes of road users: vehicle occupants, pedestrians, and bicyclists…Overall, cities with a high bicycling rate among the population generally show a much lower risk of fatal crashes for all road users when compared to the other cities in our database. The fact that this pattern of low fatality risk is consistent for all classes of road users strongly suggests that the crashes in cities with a high bicycling rate are occurring at lower speeds.” And lower speeds save lives, not just the lives of the walker and the biker, but the car driver as well.
This and the fact that many cities and towns across the country are now investing heavily in bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure is extremely encouraging as it will surely result in less crashes, injuries and fatalities. However, with the 2018 number of combined deaths at nearly 7,000, even a whopping 20% reduction would still be an alarming and heartbreaking number. The highest possible level of separation between cyclists, pedestrians and cars is the “safest” option, particularly for the biker and the walker. This separation—the type found on the Napa Valley VINE TRAIL—also offers the most pleasant kind of facility, one located away from the noise, fumes and dust of four lanes of traffic.
So while no transportation facility or any amount of meteor deflection technology can make us truly “safe,” a 47-mile trail from Vallejo to Calistoga is a damn fine start. Plus, if you’ve been enjoying some of Napa Valley’s finest offerings, you should probably walk home anyway.