Two bicyclists were hit by an intoxicated driver this morning in Murray, leaving one of them in serious condition. The fault in this case clearly lies with the driver, but the streets themselves — or perhaps the designers of the streets — deserve some credit for setting up a situation in which accidents are almost inevitable.
The picture below shows the intersection nearest the accident. I don’t know exactly where the accident occurred, but police reported that the cyclists were heading south on 700 East near 4500 South.
As is apparent, the street is a massive eight lane torrent of cars. I don’t know what the speed limit on this road is, but comparable streets in Utah County have limits around 40 mph with actual traffic usually moving even faster.
But despite the absurdly garantuan size of this street, it includes no bike lanes (and the sidewalks are pretty puny as well). There’s not even a shoulder for cyclists to ride in. Instead, they’re forced to navigate in the car lanes.
Given these circumstances, I’m surprised more people aren’t hit on this road. Indeed, I’d expect this area to basically be a blood bath littered with injured pedestrians and cyclists.
The fact that more accidents don’t happen on this road suggests that there simply aren’t many bicyclists or pedestrians who use it. That conclusion is supported by these Google images; I didn’t see many people on foot or on bikes anywhere in this area.
The benefits of walking and biking are legion and obvious. It’s healthy, cheap, environmentally friendly, etc. Search this blog, or the internet, for more information if you remain unconvinced.
But sadly, streets like these create extremely hazardous conditions for anything but cars. The result is a street that discourages use by pedestrians or cyclists. When intrepid cyclists do buck the trend, they run the very real risk of serious injury, as Friday’s accident shows.
People obviously shouldn’t drive while intoxicated, but if planners created just slightly better streets — ones that included protected bike lanes, for example — all drivers would be less likely to hit people. In other words, the man behind the wheel deserves the blame for Friday’s accident, but the streets and their designers deserve the blame for making that outcome far, far more likely.