It started with a revving engine and what sounded like a series of fireworks. It was the Saturday before Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and Esplanade Avenue was crowded with cars leaving the evening’s parade. I looked out a cafe window and saw dust settling over the street. As a silent crowd began to gather, I noticed the shards of bicycle scattered across the road.
Later that night in March, the headlines trickled in. At least eight people in a bike lane had been hit, and two of the cyclists — Sharree Walls and David Hynes — had died. The driver, the son of a New Orleans Police Department officer, had tried to pass a line of cars by driving through an unprotected bike lane for four blocks at 70 miles an hour.
Their deaths were part of a larger crisis on American roads. In cities across the country, cycling and pedestrian deaths are climbing. Overall traffic deaths were down about 1 percent last year, while cycling deaths jumped 10 percent, according to a preliminary projection by the National Highway Safety Administration. There’s a similar pattern for those on foot: More than 6,000 pedestrians were killed last year, compared with some 4,000 in 2008.<... Read more