If you are a member of the American Automobile Association (AAA), you might want to ask for a refund on your membership dues. According to comments made by AAA spokesperson Robert Sinclair in a Wall Street Journal article about street safety, the driving club is increasing the likelihood you will die in a car crash.
Joining the drowned out chorus of bike lane and pedestrian plaza opponents, Mr. Sinclair’s statements are rife with inaccuracies. He is quoted as saying the city is “plagued by bad engineering” and that bike lanes have been added “higgledy-piggledy.” New York City once was plagued by bad engineering, which resulted from decades of treating streets are merely conduits for cars. That line of thinking was smothered by NYCDOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and her forward thinking team at the agency. While many NYC streets are yet to be absolved of past engineering sins, Mr. Sinclair pays no tribute to the way streets have been redesigned to make safety a priority for all users, including motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians. The protected bike lanes on 8th and 9th Avenues in Manhattan have decreased injuries to all users by 35 and 58 percent, respectively. A pedestrian island at the entrance to the RFK Bridge improved northbound travel times for vehicles by 51 percent. How is this bad for motorists?
It is a falsehood that the implementation of bike lanes throughout the five boroughs was conducted without one of the most thorough public outreach processes ever to be managed by NYCDOT. This argument has been debunked repeatedly, but that does not stop those-who-stomp-their-feet-when-they-don’t-get-their-way.
One of the most egregious comments made by Mr. Sinclair actually runs counter to AAA’s own stance on vehicular speeding. The article quotes him as saying, “On some roadways in our area, the speed limit is artificially low…Everyone’s not driving 30 miles an hour. If you did, the city might grind to a halt.” Meanwhile, a presentation by AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety notes, “Car crashes rank among the leading causes of death in the United States,” and also points out that the faster a vehicle travels, the greater the risk of death for a pedestrian. “To improve pedestrian safety,” it continues, “reduce vehicle speeds, include traffic calming techniques such as speed bumps, lane narrowing, and changes in roadway curvature as well as increased enforcement or reduction of speed limit.”
Apparently, the money supporting AAA’s Foundation is not making your streets any safer. AAA has consistently advocated against all the below, despite their proven impact on reduced fatalities for all road users and traffic congestion:
All of these ideas reduce reckless driver behavior and gridlock. Seems like a win for drivers. AAA provides many benefits to its members but safety seems to be its last priority. In fact, it’s the last tab on its homepage after Membership, Insurance, Travel, Discounts, Automotive, and Financial. With 51 million members, it’s an incredible disappointment that AAA is not actively engaged in promoting traffic calming measures that save lives. Instead, a good deal of effort, and money, goes towards fighting these efforts as is evidenced by Mr. Sinclair’s statements. Current AAA members, your AAA membership dues are better spent on advocacy efforts that support bike lanes, pedestrian plazas and enforcement technology. These measures save lives; they may even save yours. But, what this AAA spokesperson is advocating for, and against, will kill you.