3.2.c: Reduce the number of pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities on public roadways from 87 in 2012 to zero by 2030

Figure 1 - Annual pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities compared to Target Zero reduction goal

The chart above (Figure 1) shows the total annual pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities in Washington state compared to the Target Zero reduction goal. In order to reach zero pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities by 2030 from 100 fatalities in 2015, the number of fatalities will need to be reduced by 6 to 7 per year between 2016 and 2030.

Figure 2 shows the annual pedestrian fatalities and the annual bicyclist fatalities separately. Bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities have remained fairly steady since 2000, despite slight increases in the number of people traveling by bicycle or walking.

Figure 2 - Annual pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities on Washington public roadways

Why is this a priority?

Pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities are 18% of all traffic fatalities in Washington state. As people are encouraged to drive less and use more active transportation modes, more pedestrians and bicyclists will be exposed to potential crashes. This highlights the need to identify those factors that are leading to crashes and higher severity injuries. Safe alternatives for travel including walking and bicycling have a variety of benefits including a more sustainable and reliable transportation system as well as healthier citizens and communities. Providing bicycling and walking infrastructure supports a prosperous economy because it can improve access to goods, services and employment centers, while increasing the real estate value of nearby commercial and residential properties. In addition, bicycling and walking are less expensive options than traveling by vehicle. According to the League of American Bicyclists, the annual cost of operating a bicycle is about $308, compared to $8,220 for the average car, providing opportunities for lower income road users.

Often, relatively low cost solutions can be implemented to help reduce crash risks for pedestrians and bicyclists thus reducing the likelihood of fatalities and serious injuries. Reducing pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities will reduce the number of total traffic fatalities and move us closer to reaching Washington's Highway Safety Plan goals, Target Zero, and goals for reducing these fatalities in Washington State's Bicycle Facilities and Pedestrian Walkways Plan.

How are we doing?

The number of pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities increased 18 from 85 in 2014 to 100 in 2015. The vast majority of these fatalities are pedestrians - there were 86 pedestrian fatalities in 2015, an increase from 78 in 2014 and 50 in 2013. Bicyclists fatalities have also increase in 2015, following a decline since 2012. There were 14 bicyclist fatalities in 2015, increasing from 7 in 2014. The number of pedestrian and bicyclist serious injuries decreased by 3% between 2014 and 2015, from 409 to 396 serious injuries. WSDOT is collecting data to increase its understanding of the bicyclist and pedestrian travel modes and how driver, bicyclist and pedestrian actions impact crash potential. This is important as these modes of travel increase their interaction.

Certain age groups are disproportionately represented by bicyclist and pedestrian crashes and fatalities. Teenagers and young adults (ages 15-29 years) are 20% of the population but 35% of pedestrian crashes. Adults ages 45+ are 41% of the population, but 62% of pedestrian fatalities and 58% of the bicyclist fatalities.

Getting to the Target Zero goal for pedestrians means focusing on three aspects of exposure:

  • Volume exposure: Where larger numbers of pedestrians and vehicle traffic exists there is a higher likelihood of conflicts between modes. Wherer there are more conflicts, there is a higher potential for crashes. Most pedestrian fatalities (69%) and serious injuries (67%) happen within cities where the prevalence of pedestrians tends to be higher. The data also shows the following pedestrian fatality percentage splits by posted speed - 14% at 25 mph or less, 42% at 30-35 mph, 17% at 40-45 mph, and 23% at 50 mph and above. These percentages reflect a mix of the volume exposure and the severity exposure as defined below.
  • Severity exposure: Crashes between pedestrian and vehicles expose pedestrians to potential injury because the vehicles are much larger and heavier than the pedestrian. The potential for injury increases as speed increases because the forces imparted on the pedestrian are much greater (force = mass x velocity squared).
  • Exposure to event: Numerous factors may increase the exposure to events. Examples include not being able to see a pedestrian (lower light conditions, non-reflective clothing); the time that a pedestrian may be exposed to conflict (time to cross a street); time to react to a vehicle (higher speeds are more difficult for the pedestrian to judge the speed of the vehicle); crossing at unexpected locations (more difficult for the driver to perceive, react and determine what action to take); or driver and pedestrian behaviors that reduce judgement capabilities (drugs and alcohol). More than half of pedestrian fatalities (60%) and serious injuries (62%) occurred while the pedestrian was crossing the road. Pedestrian fatalities occur more often (69%) when it is dark, at dawn or dusk. While less prominent, the two behavioral factors most often sited when there were pedestrian fatalities are driver distraction (32%) and pedestrian impairment (43%). Another behavioral factor is failure to yield. Drivers failed to yield in 14% of fatality and 19% of serious injury occurrences, and the pedestrian failed to yield in 22% of fatality and 20% of serious injury occurrences.

What are we working on?

It is not solely roadway design, driver actions, or pedestrian/bicyclist actions that cause fatalities or serious injuries. Instead, it is the interaction of all users and modes in the transportation system combined. The following strategies are ways in which WSDOT is working with partners to reduce bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities:

  • Practical Solutions – Implement multi-modal planning and design that considers transportation and land use interactions and engages local partners and community members. An example of using Practical Solutions to reduce the potential for crashes is to target speed limits at a specific location taking into consideration all system users and design elements into the system that helps self-enforce lower speeds when it is appropriate. This requires fully understanding the context and characteristics of that specific location, and allowing land use and community needs to guide design choices.
  • Education – Work with all partners and citizens to raise awareness about pedestrian and bicyclist behavior to decrease risks by reducing drug and alcohol impairment, increasing visibility, decreasing distractions and reducing the severity of injuries.
  • Introducing the 5th E, Evaluation, to Target Zero – Engineering, Enforcement, Education, Emergency Medical Services (EMS), and Evaluation (analyze and diagnose). This E recognizes that by more effectively understanding the conditions and factors leading to crashes, one can more reliably select countermeasures to address those crashes.

How can you help?

For additional information about pedestrian and bicyclist safety, see WSDOT's quarterly accountability report, the Gray Notebook 61, pp. 10-12, at http://wsdot.wa.gov/publications/fulltext/graynotebook/Mar16.pdf#page=10

For more information about Washington's Safe Routes to School program, see http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/LocalPrograms/SafeRoutes/. For more information about the Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety program, see http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/bike/funding.htm.

For more information on Washington's Target Zero program, visit http://targetzero.com/.

Action Plan