NTSB Finally Takes an Interest in Cycling Deaths — Still Misses the Point

The National Transportation Safety Board is best known for investigating train crashes and plane crashes to figure out what went wrong.

Photo: Ghostbikes.org
Photo: Ghostbikes.org

It’s an approach designed to prevent catastrophic incidents that claim several lives at once. But the much bigger risk in America’s transportation system is more mundane — the daily stream of traffic crashes that kill one or two people at a time, fading into the background of the news cycle while adding up to tens of thousands of lives lost each year.

Network blog Systemic Failure relays the news that NTSB is doing something unusual: It is investigating a fatal crash where the victims were cycling. But again the agency is focused on a single incident with a high death toll — the June collision that killed five cyclists in Kalamazoo, Michigan. According to Mlive.com:

NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss said the team will look at all aspects of the incident, including how it happened and how the truck hit the bicyclists. He said the team will reconstruct the crash and find out if there are any safety issues that could be improved, from the vehicles involved to the road.

Weiss said the NTSB is investigating because the agency has taken an interest in the case, and not at the request of local authorities.

“This is such a singular event that we wanted to look at the issues behind it,” said Weiss,

Some good might come out of this investigation, but how representative is this crash of the 700+ cyclist deaths in the U.S. each year? If the NTSB wants to make a difference for bicycling safety, it should examine the systemic causes of cycling fatalities.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Pedestrian Observations argues that everything else being equal, low-floor trams will be more reliable than low-floor buses. Transport Providence looks at a new app that lets users rent out their driveway for parking for $1 per hour. And the Political Environment reports that Wisconsin is continuing its ill-advised road spending spree with another questionable highway expansion.

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