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Concern for the needs of vulnerable road users, including pedestrians and bicyclists, has grown in recent years as the volume and prevalence of these road users has become more widely observed. The growing millennial generation is demanding walkable and bikeable facilities. As such it becomes even more important to monitor and enhance the safety of these roadway users. In Rhode Island, Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety is a priority. The Office on Highway Safety has supported and worked with many stakeholders and programs that strive for pedestrian and bicycle safety to be made a reality. The Office on Highway Safety also staffs a full time Pedestrian/Bicycle Program Coordinator to offer guidance, support, grant funding opportunities and collaboration whenever possible to these crucial stakeholders.
Over the most recent five-year period (2014-2018) pedestrian fatalities averaged 13 per year. The spike in 2017 contributes to a rise in the average compared to averages in the past. A reduction in fatalities to 7 in 2018 helps to lower the average. Bicyclist fatalities have generally been low over the last five years with no fatalities in 2014 and 2015, while in each of 2016 and 2017, there were two fatalities per year, and one in 2018. A total of 147 pedestrians were killed in motor vehicle crashes in Rhode Island from 2007 through 2018 and total fatalities involving pedestrians have fluctuated from as few as five to as many as 21 in 2017. Over this period bicycle fatalities have totaled 12 with between zero and three occurring in a given year. Rhode Island has exceeded the national percentage for pedestrian fatalities for most years in the past decade. The proportion of pedestrian fatalities rose in 2017 in conjunction with rise in overall fatalities did not. In terms of bicycle fatalities as a proportion of total fatalities, the small number of fatalities occurring in the state causes each crash to have a significant impact.
By age, the majority of pedestrian fatalities are 65 and over (38%) or between the ages of 45 to 54 (17%). By race, the majority of pedestrian fatalities are white (74%) and 21 percent are identified as black or Hispanic. The top community for pedestrian fatalities from 2014 to 2018 was Warwick with 2. By age, bicycle fatalities are impacting users across age groups, primarily 16-24-year old’s. Pedestrian fatalities are dispersed across the State with five communities experiencing a total of one over the past five years. All this information will be used to develop appropriate educational and marketing materials and target enforcement activities to reduce pedestrian and bicycle fatalities and serious injuries.
The Office on Highway Safety has worked with active stakeholders for years to spread educational, instructional and targeted messaging regarding Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety. In 2019 RIDOT/OHS launched its new educational pilot program “Rhode to Bicycle Safety”. The program covers all facets of bicycle safety and is being offered to 4th and 5th grade elementary school students. The program also features on bike instruction for all students no matter their ability level with trained instructors. Aside from Rhode to Bicycle Safety, the Office on Highway Safety also supports many other pedestrian/bicycle safety focused programs. These include: