Shape up Fort Bend and Fort Bend Cycling Coalition members hosted a community breakfast Jan. 9 to discuss safer streets for vulnerable road users in Fort Bend County.
The Master of Ceremony for the event was Jacquie Baly, former Sugar Land city council member and advocate for improving safety and transportation, and the two Keynote speakers were Preston Tyree and Police Officer Rheannon Cunningham; both from Austin.
The purpose of the meeting was twofold; to start a dialogue about increasing vulnerable road user’s accidents and the need for an ordinance to decrease accidents. Vulnerable road users are defined as cyclist, motorcycles, and pedestrians. The county is seeing more pedestrians, bicyclists and other motor-assisted vehicles on the streets, thus more accidents.
Tyree is a former multi-national marketing executive, who has devoted the last 20 years to study the application of engineering principles and safety and is a nationally recognized expert in bicycle safety. Cunningham has been an avid cyclist for over 12 years and loves just about anything that involves riding a bike, including commuting, road racing, mountain biking, and BMXing from time to time.
Cunningham has combined her passion for riding a bike with her job as an Austin Police Officer. She created APD’s first Safe Biking Program. She was instrumental in the implementation of the citywide undercover operations that enforce Austin’s Safe Passing Ordinance.
The program, guided by the two experts, highlighted the need for a three-foot safe passing distance between vehicles and vulnerable road users, thus a vulnerable road users ordinance. The ordinance would go a long way to protect the rights of vulnerable road users from being intimidated, threatened, or harassed by maneuvers of a motor vehicle. Operators of motor vehicles will need to exercise due care to avoid colliding with any vulnerable road users on a roadway or intersection.
Although all types of road users are at risk of being injured or killed in a road traffic crash, there are notable differences in fatality rates between different road user groups. In particular, the vulnerable road users are at greater risk than vehicle occupants and usually bear the greatest burden of injury. Children, elderly, and disabled people are particularly vulnerable as their physical and mental skills are either not fully developed or are especially fragile. Children and older people are often over represented in traffic fatalities, especially as vulnerable road users.
Sadly, approximately 50 cyclists, 400 pedestrians and 500 motorcyclists are killed every year in Texas. Many of those fatalities could be prevented if this law were enacted.
For more information about the program, contact Shape Up Fort Bend at 832-520-8212.