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Speeches

Board Meeting: Safety Research Report - Bicyclist Safety on US Roadways: Crash Risks and Countermeasures - Closing Statement
Robert L. Sumwalt
NTSB Boardroom and Conference Center, Washington, DC
11/5/2019

​In closing, I thank my colleagues for their preparation going into the board meeting, and for the good debate and discussion. Special thanks to our Office of Research and Engineering and Office of Highway Safety staff. Thanks to Ivan Cheung, who was the research manager, but as I always say, nothing around here happens through just one person; it’s always a team effort. So a sincere “thank you” not just to everybody who worked on this report, but also to the program and support staff members who made it possible. In addition, external stakeholders who participated in this research provided invaluable input that helped guide the development of this report.

The recommendations that we issued and reiterated today, if acted upon, will save lives, as vulnerable road users begin to be accounted for in crash warning and prevention systems, as well as in connected vehicle systems.

These recommendations will result in better active lighting for vehicles, better road design to separate motor vehicles from bicycles and other vulnerable road users, and a long-overdue reevaluation of bicycle conspicuity standards—among other measures.

Since bicyclists are subject to the road environment and to the safety features of motor vehicles, bicycle safety can never only be the concern of individual bicyclists. Action is necessary on the part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Highway Administration for this nation to reach its full potential for bicycle safety.

The individual bicyclist can take steps to avoid a crash by obeying traffic rules and controls (such as signals), and enhancing conspicuity – for example, through the use of bicycle lights. In the event of a crash, bicyclists are safer wearing a bicycle helmet that meets federal bicycle helmet standards.

But this Board is also aware of the need for action on the many recommendations reiterated to NHTSA in this report, and newly issued to NHTSA and to the FHWA.

Through slow action on advanced vehicle lighting systems, bicyclists and other vulnerable road users are hidden from the view of drivers. Slow action keeps vulnerable road users in the blind spots of trucks. It keeps them unrecognized by connected vehicle systems. It allows them to be treated as an afterthought in collision avoidance systems.

857 bicyclists died in crashes with motor vehicles in 2018. That’s more than died in every airplane crash in the United States last year.

Vulnerable road users not only deserve the safest roads that these modal administrations can help provide; they need them. And they need them sooner, not later.

We stand adjourned.