The 731 pedestrian deaths statewide in 2020 represented a 9% year-over-year increase and the 82 bicycle deaths a 21% increase, according to a Texas Department of Transportation press release. In the Austin area there were 64 pedestrian fatalities and nine bicycle fatalities.
“More than 800 people lost their lives last year in pedestrian and bicycle-related crashes on Texas roads. One death is too many,” TxDOT Executive Director Marc Williams said in a press release. “Whether you’re behind the wheel, on foot or riding a bicycle, we’re reminding all Texans that they need to be safe and smart, and that starts with obeying traffic laws.”
In response, TxDOT is launching a campaign that “urges all Texans to walk smart, bike smart and drive smart,” according to a press release. Texans can expect to see messages on TV, billboards, gas pumps, buses and social media.
TxDOT also has a campaign to end the streak of road deaths as the state has not had a day without a death since Nov. 7, 2000.
The city of Austin's Vision Zero data highlights how much deadlier pedestrian and bicycle crashes were in 2020 and the beginning half of 2021.
Despite steep drops in total crashes between 2019 and 2020, the number of fatalities stayed the same. Through June 30, the number of bicyclist deaths already equaled the totals in 2019 and 2020.
While TxDOT has made road safety a priority, the latest I-35 designs reveal the divide between the state agency and transportation advocates in Austin. Proposals such as Rethink 35 and Reconnect Austin that aim to make the city more walkable and bikeable have largely been left out of the designs.
However, TxDOT said it is prioritizing bike and pedestrian safety. According to the its website, it will aim to improve bike and pedestrian paths along I-35 “by including shared-use paths on the east and west sides of the corridor. The projects also propose improving east-west connections for existing roadway crossings, adding pedestrian signals at all intersections and ensuring pathways are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.”
According to data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Texas had the third most bicyclist and pedestrian deaths in 2019, behind Florida and California. The same study found it had the most overall road deaths in 2019 at 3,294.