Missoula bikers, pedestrians confront alarming crash trends

Bret Anne Serbin

Katy Robin Garton bikes around Missoula every day with her three children.

Elliot Melzer, 6, rides alongside his mother, who carts around Emi Sue Melzer, 3, and Teddy Waltman, 2, in a double-seated contraption on the back of her bike.

“We get them biking young,” said Garton.

She generally feels safe riding with her young children in Missoula, but streets are getting more dangerous for non-motorized users like Garton and her family.  

In the past 10 years, the national traffic safety record for non-motorists has gotten substantially worse. According to Dr. Kelcie Ralph, an associate professor of planning and public policy at Rutgers University, 80% more people are dying on American streets while walking and bicycling.

Pedestrian fatalities paint a particularly bleak picture. A traffic safety report from the U.S. Department of Transportation and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration noted that in 2021, 7,300 people nationwide died while walking. That’s equivalent to 20 people per day, or one every 50 minutes.

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The pedestrian fatality rate was 13% worse in 2021 than 2020.

In Missoula, where according to American Community Survey data residents bicycle 12 times more than the

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