Large trucks are a leading killer of cyclists and pedestrians in urban areas. While London has recently decided to kick the most dangerous trucks out of the city, in the U.S., truck safety regulations are much further behind.
Engineer Alex Epstein of the Volpe Center, a research arm of U.S. DOT, spent five years examining how truck design affects bike and pedestrian safety. As a government researcher, he’s not authorized to discuss federal regulations, but his work is intended to guide policy.
We spoke with Epstein about what he’s learned and the potential implications. The interview was lightly edited for length and clarity.
So what have you been learning?
We’ve been looking at the impact on bicycle and pedestrian safety, particularly in urban areas. The proportion of bicycle and pedestrian fatalities involving large trucks and the proportion of trucks on the road is not one-to-one.
Nationally it’s more like 3 to 1 — three times as many bicyclists killed. So 11 percent of bicyclist [fatalities are accounted for] by the 4 percent of vehicles on the road [that] are trucks.
In cities, it’s more disproportionate. In New York City, about 32 percent — about one out of every three cyclists that are killed — are killed by a truck. And for pedestrians it’s about one in eight.