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NHTSA's Bike Safety Program -- Ancient history from 1999

Summary: The US Dept. of Transportation (NHTSA) announced these initiatives in 1999. They are history but left here for that reason. For recent NHTSA publications and resources, see this newer page.

Bicycle Safety Initiatives

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Summary for National Bicycle Safety Network
January 20, 1999

Maria E. Vegega, Ph.D. Marietta Pearson
Safety Countermeasures Division
Office of Traffic Injury Control Programs, NHTSA


Marvin Levy, Ph.D.
Research and Evaluation Division
Office of Research and Traffic Records. NHTSA

Note: This is an old description, but a few of the materials mentioned below are still available on the NHTSA website.

Bicycle safety issues and activities in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are primarily the responsibility of Traffic Safety Programs, which is responsible for the behavioral aspects of bicycle safety, including pertinent research, public information and education, enforcement, and outreach. The bicycle safety program is the responsibility of both the Office of Traffic Injury Control Programs and the Office of Research and Traffic Records. In addition, NHTSA's National Center for Statistics and Analysis (NCSA) provides information on fatalities and injuries due to bicycle-related traffic crashes. Telephone inquiries regarding data should be addressed to Ms. Louann Hall at 1-800-934-8517.

Many bicycle safety activities are carried out jointly with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). NHTSA provides leadership and assistance to the bicycle safety community through information and education; partnerships and outreach; and technical assistance, training and infrastructure support. Current NHTSA initiatives are listed below.

Program Initiatives

  • Bicycle Safety Materials

    Effective March 1999, all bicycle helmets sold in the U. S. must meet a uniform mandatory standard issued by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Together with CPSC, NHTSA developed a set of materials to inform consumers about the CPSC standard and provide instruction on proper helmet usage. The materials developed include a brochure (DOT-HS-808-747), a poster (DOT-HS-808-746), and a flyer (DOT-HS-808757). The brochure contains commonly asked questions about bicycle helmets and safety, as well as information on the new bicycle helmet standard. All materials are illustrated with the correct way to wear a helmet.

  • Earth Force Get Out Spoke 'n! Youth Bike Summit

    NHTSA and CDC have initiated a partnership with Earth Force, a leading environmental youth group, to celebrate National Bike Month on May 5, 1999 by holding a Youth Bike Summit in Washington, DC. The Summit will feature presentations of awards to Get Out Spoke 'n! teams who have designed the best community action programs to make their communities more bike-friendly. The event will capitalize on the national reach of the Get Out Spoke `n! Campaign, encourage bicycling participation, and provide much-needed visibility to bicycle safety issues by giving local youth groups a strong incentive to take part in Get Out Spoke'n!, including the chance to win a trip to Washington, D.C., and to receive national recognition as a youth leader in improving bicycle safety and transportation.

  • Ride Like a Pro Bicycle Safety Event

    This event, conducted in partnership with the National Football League, focuses attention on the importance of children wearing bicycle helmets and learning safe riding practices. Conducted in conjunction with Super Bowl activities, Ride Like a Pro has used professional athletes in the community to emphasize the importance of wearing a bicycle helmet. All children attending the event are fitted and given a bicycle helmet. We are developing a community handbook to enable local communities to put on their own Ride Like a Pro Event.

  • Community Youth Bicycle Safety Initiative

    NHTSA is working with the League of American Bicyclists and the Youth Bicycle Education Network to implement an 18 month program to incorporate safety and helmet wearing into the bicycle activities directed towards at-risk youth in primarily urban areas. The project will include new PI&E materials focused on urban youth, along with an instructor's guide with community specific components to allow it to be tailored as appropriate.

  • Bike Patrol Training Module

    In January, NHTSA will initiate an effort to work with Bike Patrol Officers (Cops on Bikes) to develop training materials that will provide law enforcement officers with the information they need to be teachers of bike safety in the community. In community policing, law enforcement officers can serve as models and take advantage of teachable moments to provide safety messages to community residents.

  • Emergency Nurses Association

    Minor League Baseball games are very family-oriented and provide an opportunity to demonstrate safety practices. The Emergency Nurses Association will partner with Minor League Baseball teams in their communities to sponsor bicycle safety events in conjunction with baseball games, thereby demonstrating safe riding and correct helmet practices.

  • Ride Like a Pro Community Handbook

    Because of the interest in the Ride Like a Pro Bicycle Safety Event, NHTSA is developing a handbook to enable communities to partner with sports teams and host their own Ride Like a Pro event. This will provide opportunities to reach far more children to demonstrate safe riding practices and to emphasize the importance of bicycle helmets. We anticipate that the Handbook will be available in 1999.

Research Initiatives

  • Survey on Public Beliefs about Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety and Accommodation

    NHTSA plans to conduct a national telephone survey of approximately 4,000 adults respondents to assess public attitudes, knowledge and behaviors regarding pedestrian and bicyclist safety and accommodation. Information will be collected and analyzed on a variety of topics including where bicyclists ride; bicyclists' attitudes about drivers and vice versa; impediments to bicycling, etc. It is anticipated that data collection will be completed by the summer of 1999, with a contractor's report submitted by the end of the year.

  • Bicyclist Research Compendium

    Over the past 30 years NHTSA has conducted research addressing problem identification, countermeasure development (including public information and education; training; and model legislation), and evaluation. This compendium provides a synthesis of NHTSA's bicyclist research program from the 1960' throughout the 1990s. It also provides a synopsis of each study, and a subject and author index. It is anticipated the compendium will be available by the end of 1999.

  • Bicycle Safety Resource Guide

    This is a resource guide for the bicycle safety professional--a person who is pro-active in developing bicycle safety programs at the state or community level. It is designed to aid in matching problems identified by the professional or community at large with countermeasures that can be used to reduce the size of the problem. The guide contains a matrix of 40 safety problems identified by members of the bicycling community (e.g., motorist & bicyclist errors; visibility/conspicuity problems, high risk locations) for each of 15 implementer groups ( e.g., public and private highway safety groups; law enforcement, elected officials). Within each cell of the matrix is a listing of existing and proposed countermeasures. These countermeasures are described more fully in a separate section. A CD-ROM version of the bicycle safety resource guide is in preparation and will be submitted by the contractor in March, 1999.

  • Literature Review on Pedestrian and Bicyclist Conspicuity

    In 1995, about 300 bicyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles between the hours of 6 p.m. and midnight and another 17,000 were injured. This study will involve an in depth review of newly developed materials and technologies relating to pedestrian and bicyclist conspicuity, and will also identify any national and international programs that have targeted pedestrian and bicyclist conspicuity. The project began this past September and a contractor's report will be submitted during mid 1999.

  • Enhancing the Detection/Recognition of Bicycles

    Research into identifying ways to make the bicycle/bicyclist more visible to oncoming motorists have focused primarily on the use of special retro-reflective materials that are sensitive to the light from oncoming vehicle headlamps and reflect a portion of the incident light back to the driver. Not enough attention has been devoted to the development of novel bicycle detection/recognition systems. A Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) award was recently made to explore the feasibility of developing low cost and low maintenance systems, possibly integrated into the bicycle design, that substantially increase bicycle/cyclist detection and recognition distances from all directions. A technical report is due during calendar 1999.

  • Beta Testing of the Pedestrian and Bicyclist Crash Analysis Tool (PBCAT)

    In order for communities to efficiently focus their pedestrian crash countermeasure efforts, they need to know about the types of crashes that pedestrians are most commonly involved in, and the most effective ways to counter these crashes. The Federal Highway Administration is developing a prototype software package that users can use to "type" pedestrian and bicyclist crashes automatically. Detailed crash reports, as well as a list of potential countermeasures can be generated for target groups (e.g., young children, adult riders). NHTSA's effort, to be initiated during calendar 1999, will involve beta testing the software package, and developing recommendations for product refinement.

Other Initiatives

  • Secretarial Initiative for Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety

    A coordinated DOT approach to promote walking and bicycling as safe, efficient, and healthy ways to travel. By the Year 2000, the Initiative will reduce by 10 percent, the number of injuries and fatalities occurring to bicyclists and pedestrians; and double the national percentage of transportation trips (from 7.9% to 15.8%) made by bicycling and walking. The initiative has three components:

    • increased awareness of the pedestrian and bike fatality and injury problem;
    • development of a "Toolkit" of resource materials that states and communities can use to achieve their goals;
    • the Partnership for a Walkable America.

  • Patterns for Life

    This five-year program, begun in FY 1996, is designed to help agencies and organizations within local communities form lasting partnerships with each other, and to provide the resources necessary to reduce the number of children (ages 0- 10) killed and seriously injured each year in traffic crashes. The first two years of the program focused on child passenger safety, primarily child safety seat issues. Bicycle and pedestrian issues are now being integrated into the program. Under this program, NHTSA developed a series of TIP Sheets on pedestrian, bicycle and school bus safety, as well as the Ride Like a Pro Community Handbook. NHTSA is now working with Fire & Rescue personnel to develop a training module to enable fire & rescue personnel to teach pedestrian, bicycle and school bus safety to interested community groups. Finally, NHTSA will initiate a effort to create a set of developmentally-based guidelines to enable professionals, parents and care givers to access when a child is able to walk to school, cross a street, or ride a bike without adult supervision.

  • Safe Communities

    This NHTSA initiative encourages communities to identify and address their own injury problems. Because bicycle issues are local in nature, the Safe Communities program presents opportunity to raise bicycle issues on local traffic safety agenda. Characteristics of a Safe Community include:

    • use local data to identify community injury problems, costs, and who pays;
    • expanded partnerships beyond traditional traffic safety partners to include health, medical, and business;
    • citizen involvement from the beginning, i.e., citizens are involved in identifying community traffic injury problems and potential solutions to the problem;
    • have in place a comprehensive injury control system that addresses prevention, acute care, and rehabilitation.
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