Monday, February 02, 2009

What is Street Code?

Street Code, is an agenda comprised of legislation, policy , enforcement and localized advocacy and education that explicates a collective understanding of how street users should interact:
  • Drivers must always yield to pedestrians and cyclists, and obey relevant traffic laws
  • Cyclists must always yield to pedestrians, and follow relevant traffic laws
  • Pedestrians must follow relevant traffic laws

Northern European Countries such as the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany and Sweden employ street code type systems. Traffic fatalities per capita in those countries run about 1/4 of the rate in the US.

Engineering,, education and enforcement are all key supporters for a good street code. An example of this is "Strict Liability", supported in law in the Netherlands, leads to driver's insurance being deemed to be responsible in a collision between a car and a cyclist. This makes car drivers very wary of bicycles. However bicyclists are expected to obey the law there and bicycle safety education in the Netherlands is compulsory.


peteathome said...

While I think this is a great concept, I'm not sure I follow the cause and effects of it.

Bicyclists in the Netherlands are not known for compliance with the rules, other than staying on the paths and off of the roads. And a pedestrian crossing a bike path in the city better look before crossing or they will be buzzed by bikes with bells aringing.

Also, I believe the major factor for the lower fatality rates in Denmark and the Netherlands ( don't know about Sweden and Germany) is not better laws, training or engineering, but much lower speed limits on urban roads.

Dan said...

I think that you have to focus more on rider education in order to improve bike safety. Only a minority of riders wear helmets. Bike lanes encourage the extremely dangerous practice of riding against the flow of traffic.

Last week I witnessed a woman riding against the flow of traffic in the bike lane on 6th Street while crossing Callowhill Street. It was dark, she was wearing dark clothing, no reflectors or lights, and was not wearing a helmet. She made no attempt to make eye contact with the startled drivers who were attempting to turn right onto Callowhill Street as she wove through the cars making right turns. All of the drivers yielded to her and got out of her way but she could have easily been killed by a driver who couldn't see her in the dark.

This is not unusual behavior for most of the cyclists I see riding today. Many bike riders are inexperienced and very careless, they do not pay attention to their surroundings. Laws that require drivers yield to riders will only encourage more careless behavior. While riding I have many more potentially dangerous encounters with other riders and pedestrians than I have with cars.

streeterville said...

I have a very different view of this issue than the two posters. (I do write from a European city...). I believe it takes years, if not a decade or more, for bikers, walkers, and drivers to learn how to accommodate each other in all the different situations that arise in jointly using the streets of a city. There will always be renegade bike riders just as much as renegade car drivers (and renegade walkers, too - like the man that last night stamped his feet to scare me as I was riding past). It's a process, and it will never be finished, per se. However, if we come from a place where the biggest, heaviest, most dangerous vehicle bears the biggest responsibility - if we start to think that way, I think we go a long way toward the greatest happiness and respect possible.