Governing: Bikers, Walkers Need Cities to Protect Them

Alex Marshall of Governing discussed with Steve Vaccaro the steps necessary to reduce bike accidents.

At a street corner somewhere, a pedestrian, a bicyclist and an automobile driver enter an intersection. The person in the car turns and hits either the person on foot or the person on the bike, killing her.

Question: What happens to the driver? In most states, nothing. Unless the driver is drunk or can be shown to be speeding or driving recklessly, it is, in the words of Aaron Naparstek, founder of Streetsblog, “a free kill.” The driver walks away without criminal charges, civil liabilities or administrative penalties.

This is crazy.

Without laws protecting bikers and walkers…the goal of having truly livable cities in America remains out of reach. Legal lines are more important than physical lines. Creating the right laws to govern the interactions among walkers, cyclists and drivers is more effective than painting new stripes for a bike lane.

“Ultimately, the thing that changes people’s behavior are the penalties,” says Steve Vaccaro, a lawyer in New York City who specializes in bicycle injuries.

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