Add it to the growing list of eco paradoxes. Or, per the Edward Tenner book: when technology bites back. Already shamed with its recall of Toyota Prius models (owing to dangerous, unintended acceleration issues), the green car movement now has to deal this rift in its constituency. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration completed a September report that highlights a startling statistical anomaly: "Because hybrids tend to use all-electric mode at lower speeds, the number of pedestrian/bike accidents are higher at under 35 mph" when compared to conventional autos. Why? Because hybrids are silent. Silent but deadly!
It's a silent battle between Prius drivers and Seattle peds.
Wrap your Mike McGinn-voting conscience around that. You want to save the environment. You want to pollute less when driving, walk to work, or ride your bike. But the result could be carnage! As parsed by Jalopnik and Green Car Reports, the NHTSA study further says that the rate of bike-hybrid accidents (0.6 percent) is double that of your noisy, polluting internal-combustion cars. Granted, based on data from only 12 states (including ours), the NHTSA report is hardly comprehensive. And since the overall number of hybrid vehicles on the road is dwarfed by their gasoline cousins, the vast majority of such accidents falls into the latter category. The NHTSA report is only preliminary, and it stops short of making recommendations. But since Seattle is a hotbed of green-minded Prius drivers, it raises a provocative new transportation safety issue for our bike-riding mayor elect: Should all hybrid vehicles be required by law to carry cowbells, so we can hear them coming?