Walking, biking and riding an electric scooter (e-scooter) are healthy, environmentally friendly transportation options. More people are walking, biking or scooting to work, cities are implementing micromobility programs (shared bikes and e-scooters) and transportation planners are increasingly taking pedestrians,bicyclists and scooter riders into account when making infrastructure improvements.
Unfortunately, pedestrians, cyclists and scooter riders are at an inherent disadvantage when involved in traffic crashes: When a faster-moving vehicle collides with them, the vehicle always wins. Advances in crashworthiness and technology have contributed to the decline in vehicle occupant deaths, but people outside of vehicles remain susceptible to serious injury or death when struck by a motor vehicle.
In 2020, 6,236 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in the United States, 16% of all traffic fatalities. This is a small increase from 6,205 deaths in 2019 and the largest number of pedestrian fatalities since 1990. (Early Estimates of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities and Fatality Rate by Sub-Categories in 2020, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). Injuries to people on foot, meanwhile, increased 1.3% in 2019 from 75,000 to 76,000.
Each year approximately 2% of fatalities resulting from motor vehicle crashes are people on bicycles. In 2020, 891 bicyclists were killed on U.S. roadways, up 5% from 846 deaths in 2019. In 2019, most bicyclist deaths (90%) were those ages 20 and older. Deaths among bicyclists younger than 20 have declined 90% since 1975, while deaths among bicyclists 20 and older have tripled. In every year since 1975, many more male than female bicyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety).
Electric scooters (e-scooters) exploded in popularity after appearing on city streets virtually overnight in 2018. They are part of a rapidly evolving form of transportation referred to as micromobility, which also includes docked and dockless shared bicycles, skateboards and other personal transportation devices. Micromobility options are popular in crowded urban environments and college campuses but are becoming increasingly commonplace in small towns and on suburban neighborhood streets. Emergency rooms have seen an increase in crashes and head injuries involving e-scooter riders, and many drivers are not accustomed to sharing the road with this new form of transportation. GHSA’s report, Understanding and Tackling Micromobility: Transportation's New Disruptor, funded by State Farm®, offers concrete examples of what State Highway Safety Offices (SHSOs) can do in partnership with others to ensure micromobility riders and all road users safely share the road.
GHSA recognizes the importance of bicyclist,pedestrian and micromobility rider safety, and its member SHSOs administer programs focused on improving safety for people who using these modes. A few examples:
- Street Smart NJ, a collaborative program that is supported by the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety, educates drivers about safely sharing the road through equitable enforcement of the state’s law mandating that drivers stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk, grassroots public education and outreach, and pop-up and low-cost infrastructure improvements. Research confirms the campaign is sparking positive changes in both reported and observed behaviors by drivers and people on foot, and greater awareness of pedestrian safety laws.
- The Go Human Bicycle/Pedestrian Safety Program, led by the Southern California Association of Governments, with support from the California Office of Traffic Safety, works collaboratively to reduce collisions involving people walking and biking through public outreach, community engagement and safety demonstration projects. The latter includes a lending library of safety materials, called Kit of Parts, which allows jurisdictions to borrow and utilize equipment to test street infrastructure improvements with the public. To date, more than one third of these safety projects have been funded or permanently installed.
- Scoot Safe, a collaboration between the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety and Shepherd Center is the first federally funded, evidence-based e-scooter injury prevention campaign in the nation. The partnership between highway safety and brain trauma experts led to the creation of a safe scooting checklist that cities and municipalities can customize and share with riders and a series of short videos highlighting the importance of following e-scooter provider safety instructions, why you should always wear a helmet and the dangers of using an e-scooter while under the influence of alcohol and other impairing substances.