Bikes and pedestrians often have an uneasy relationship with motor vehicles on the road.
Just how much became clearer with the release of state data Wednesday.
New York led the nation in the percentage of traffic fatalities for pedestrians and bicyclists in 2012, the last of four years studied by a nonprofit transportation watchdog organization.
The report cited 3,648 motor vehicle collisions with pedestrians and bicycles in Erie County alone in 2012 – 2,223 pedestrian collisions and 1,425 accidents involving bicyclists, resulting in 38 pedestrian fatalities and five bicyclist deaths.
Buffalo, with 2,002 collisions recorded in the same four years between 2009 and 2012, had the most in Erie County, with Amherst having the second most with 328.
“It’s an alarming number of collisions, but we could reduce the number of them by making improvements to our roads,” said Nadine Lemmon of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, which released the accident study using the state Department of Transportation’s accident data files.
“Unfortunately, the state has reduced the amount of money it has invested in necessary projects.”
New York State has cut state transportation funds by about 40 percent on projects to make roads safer for all users, such as restriping vehicle lanes to accommodate bicycles or repainting crosswalks so they are more visible, the transportation watchdog group said.
A state DOT spokesman disagreed with those spending calculations, claiming that many improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists aren’t broken out in spending reports, including some of the state’s largest projects.
“We may have road projects where we are building new sidewalks or making the shoulder wider or restriping for bicycles, but the numbers aren’t broken out as being for pedestrian and bicycle improvements,” Beau Duffy said.
DOT “Safety is our No. 1 priority. We have a robust traffic safety program and work with state and local agencies and law enforcement to make roads and highways safer for all users. Public education and enforcement are a big component,” Duffy added. The deadly accidents have left a trail of tears behind. Two women were killed two months apart this year – in June and August – crossing Niagara Falls Boulevard at Willow Ridge Drive at the Amherst-Town of Tonawanda border. In August, a 12-year-old boy riding his bicycle was killed in a car collision on Sheridan Drive. In March, a former Holland Volunteer Fire Company chief was fatally struck by a car while walking in front of his home.
Lemmon singled out Buffalo for being the first city in the state to pass a Complete Streets law, which encourages safer road infrastructure. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed similar statewide legislation into law last year. “The City of Buffalo has continued to make significant strides implementing Complete Streets in spite of dwindling state resources,” said Justin Booth, executive director of GObike Buffalo. “Without the state Department of Transportation making a commitment to truly making our communities safe for all roadway users, progress will continue to be slow.”