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Year In Review

The Worst News of 2023 For Sustainable Transportation Advocates

2023 wasn't all bad — but we've got to talk about the bummers before we get to the good news.

12:01 AM EST on December 21, 2023

There was a lot to celebrate in the movement to end car dependency this year ... but we're not talking about that today.

To get the bad news out of the way first: 2023 was a rocky year for sustainable transportation advocates across the country, starting with the announcement of the final road death toll for 2022, which was, once again, a record breaker.

Pedestrian deaths were particularly bleak, hitting their highest point in 41 years — even as evidence mounts that Americans are walking less than ever.

Read more.

The federal government had a few big opportunities to help reverse that trend, but left a lot of them on the table.

In March, for instance, Republican lawmakers and the Government Accountability Office succeeded in pressuring the Biden administration to withdraw a memo that simply asked states to fix the highways they've already got before they expand them or build new ones, never mind forcing them to stop.

And in the absence of even gentle guidance, states kept right on pouring asphalt — even in states like Maryland with Democratic governors who won office running on climate platforms. Boondoggles like the Interstate Bridge Project between Oregon and Washington won massive federal grants, even as advocates did the math to prove these projects were a waste of taxpayer money. Even some "Reconnecting Communities" infrastructure meant to help heal neighborhoods torn apart by freeways faced accusations of being nothing more than "highways by another name."

Read more.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, meanwhile, reportedly caved to pressure from trucking industry lobbyists and altered a critical report on "underride" crashes, wildly underestimating the number of lives lost in these grisly collisions and excluding the deaths of pedestrians and cyclists entirely. And when it came to civil crash settlements, pedestrian lives weren't worth much at all, as evidenced by the shocking comments of a Seattle police officer who joked that the family of a woman killed by police officer in a crash could be paid off for just $11,000.

Meanwhile, mass transit continued its downward ridership spiral in many cities, and assaults on operators rose. And even in the private sector, shared transportation passengers bore the burden, with Greyhound stations vanishing from countless downtowns.

And to add insult to injury: the Cybertruck dropped, and we all had to talk about Elon Musk once again.

2023 wasn't all bad news — with any luck, each of these stories will help fuel our advocacy through 2024 and beyond. Tune in tomorrow for the bright side.

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