Our whole focus on pedestrian safety, on cyclist safety, is backwards. We spend so much time focusing on making sure pedestrians are crossing in the crosswalk, waiting for our light, or that cyclists are wearing a helmet. What about the things that hit the people?
The thought came back to mind when I saw journalist Peter Flax tweeting about America’s obsession with helmets, rather than focusing on making sure riders don’t get fatally struck in the first place:
Flax wasn’t idly tweeting. He also sent our way news that a 2015 ruling in New York City has nearly reached its goal: all city government trucks must run side guards. These are simple, affordable, effective instruments in keeping people from getting killed on city streets. The “walker blocker” keeps people from getting crushed by a truck’s back tires.
The newest development is that the Fire Department is now up to snuff, as our favorite government fleet vehicle news site Government-Fleet.com reports:
The New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services has completed truck side-guard safety installations with the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), upgrading 335 trucks between the two agencies.
Side-guards are inexpensive and common-sense protections to help keep pedestrians, bicyclists, or children from being caught in the gap of a truck and badly hurt or killed, according to the city, which reported the news in a June 15 NYC/DCAS fleet newsletter.
Let’s take a look at that newsletter, which reports that the city is almost three-quarters of the way to full compliance as far as its own trucks are concerned:
Overall, the City fleet is now at 70% compliance with 3,170 trucks using side-guards. This is the largest side-guard safety program of its type in the United States and a model for truck operations, private and public.
I am writing this news just after another cyclist was killed by a truck in the city, a 71-year-old rider struck by a USPS truck leaving Central Park. Every fatal crash I can think of in the past few years I’ve been paying attention (that is, since I started riding my bike in the city again) has been a truck killing a cyclist. I think about these deaths every time I get on my bike. As careful as I ride, as often as I wear a helmet, I can’t get past how incompatible cyclists and pedestrians are with huge trucks, and how often we are forced to share the same space.