DENVER — A mechanic from a local dealership was test driving a Ford F-150 Raptor pickup Friday, when investigators say he veered across a lane line and hit a cyclist from behind on the I-25 Frontage Road, killing the cyclist.
A spokesman from the Colorado State Patrol (CPS) said it was too early to know if the 19-year-old driver would face charges for the 36-year-old cyclist’s death. But investigators did say they are looking into whether speed was a factor in the accident.
The crash, one of two that killed cyclists on metro Denver roads this weekend, highlights a problem studies have consistently shown for years: higher profile vehicles are more likely to severely injure or kill pedestrians and cyclists.
“Cars are just getting bigger and bigger on the roads and the bigger they get the more dangerous they get for people outside of them,” said Jack Todd, director of communications and policy for the advocacy group Bicycle Colorado.
“The ads that you see on TV are just for these bigger more for lack of a better term masculine trucks and they don’t come with the comparative safety benefits.”
One study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found while the number of pedestrians killed in crashes rose 53% between 2009 to 2018, the share of SUVs in the U.S. passenger vehicle fleet grew from 21% to 29% in the same time period.
According to data from the Colorado Department of Transportation, 10 cyclists were killed in crashes in 2009. The number more than doubled in 2018 to 22. There was also an increase in pedestrian deaths in the same time.
So far in 2021, 12 cyclists have died in crashes, according to a spokeswoman for the agency.
“There’s a lot of evidence that cars are getting safer and safer for the people inside of them but as those safety improvements come, drivers get more comfortable and they get more complacent, so cars are actually getting more dangerous for people outside of them,” Todd said.
Tim Jackson, president and CEO of the Colorado Auto Dealers Association, said he didn’t dispute data that SUVs and trucks lead to more pedestrian and cyclist deaths. He said automakers have and continue to improve technology to help drivers avoid these encounters with other road users.
But Jackson said the biggest problem is infrastructure, which places vehicles and bicycles so close together.
“When you put cyclists right next to cars, it’s dangerous,” Jackson said.
Todd agrees infrastructure is an issue, though he points out that the auto industry has long advocated city governments to build infrastructure the way it is.
“The ads that you see on TV are just for these bigger more for lack of a better term masculine trucks and they don’t come with the comparative safety benefits,” Todd said. “
“We’re kind of seeing this marketing from the auto industry that says get bigger, get faster and that’s not helpful for people outside of cars.”
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