A newly announced measure in New York designed to make city trucks safer and to prevent fatal truck accidents is worthy of examination by our city government here in Portland and perhaps even by the Oregon legislature as well. According to Gothamist, a NYC-focused website, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced this week that “around 240 of the city’s trucks will soon be outfitted with protective side guards to protect pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists.”
“The guards, which span the side of the truck from the front to the rear wheel, are intended to protect anyone unfortunate enough to be hit by a truck from becoming trapped underneath it,” according to the article. A quick web search turns up photos of many municipal trucks around the country sporting the guardrails.
New York’s initial measure is relatively limited – involving only 240 out of more than 4700 city-owned trucks that could be fitted with the gear – but as a test project it feels like an excellent start. The article notes that “in the UK, side guards are credited with reducing fatalities and severe injuries in side impacts by 61 percent for bicyclists and 20 percent for pedestrians.”
The figures for cyclists are particularly striking and certainly make a strong argument for looking further into side guards not only on municipal vehicles here in Oregon but, perhaps, even as a mandatory safety feature on trucks over a certain size (the New York initiative, according to Gothamist, does not apply to trucks weighing less than 10,000 pounds), particularly semi-trucks, which are such a common sight on Oregon’s roads.
As a Portland bicycle accident lawyer, and simply as a citizen who has seen far too many preventable accidents on our city’s streets involving pedestrians and cyclists on the one hand and extra-large vehicles on the other, I am encouraged to see New York taking this initiative. We can only hope that the largest city in the country will end up offering an example that smaller cities and towns around America will want to copy.