Senate Committee Advances Senator Schatz’s Bipartisan Legislation to Promote Safer Streets and Communities
Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, the Senate Commerce Committee approved the Comprehensive Transportation and Consumer Protection Act of 2015, which included a bipartisan amendment, introduced by U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) that will improve the safety of our nation’s roads and expand access for bikers and pedestrians. The amendment directs the Department of Transportation, in coordination with states, to establish standards to ensure safe use of our nation’s roads.
The amendment championed by this bipartisan group seeks to establish standards for planning, design, and construction that accommodate travelers of all ages and abilities, including drivers, transit passengers, bicyclists, and pedestrians.
“By building roads and communities with more sidewalks, bike paths, bus lanes, and public transit stops, we encourage more transportation options and create safer neighborhoods for families,” said Senator Schatz. “This provision will make sure roadways are built with all users in mind – whether it’s a mother walking with her child in a stroller, a student biking to school, or a senior using the metro to get to the store.”
“Pedestrian safety is a pertinent issue in Nevada, where nearly a quarter of overall traffic fatalities are pedestrian fatalities. For this reason, I was proud to see our Safer Streets Amendment included in the Comprehensive Transportation and Consumer Protection Act, which passed through committee last night,” said Senator Heller. “Though I know state and regional transportation organizations are working diligently to address these safety concerns, I hope this amendment will further the process and spur innovative transportation planning throughout the nation that aims to improve pedestrian safety.”
“It is great news that the safer streets provision was included in the transportation bill that passed out of the Commerce Committee,” said Senator Markey. “Every year, thousands of pedestrians and cyclists needlessly die on our roadways. We can prevent these tragedies with commonsense, low-cost design changes and better safety infrastructure. This provision will require road design to address the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians, keeping our streets and communities safer.”
During the last decade overall traffic fatalities have gone down while fatalities among pedestrians has gone up from 4,675 to 4,735 in 2013. That means a pedestrian was killed every 2 hours in 2013. Pedestrian fatalities disproportionately affect the elderly. People 65 and older accounted for 12.6% of the total population but 21% of pedestrian fatalities from 2003-2010. And two thirds of pedestrian deaths have occurred on federally funded road ways underscoring the need for thoughtful design standards that can include improvements as simple as larger sidewalks and longer crosswalk times.
This legislation is likely to be considered by the Senate in the next two weeks for consideration as part of an effort to adopt a long-term, comprehensive transportation authorization bill.