There's a lot of chicken and the egg commentary in cycling circles about infrastructure and mode share- from the "if you build it, they will come" theory, to the "if they come, they'll demand infrastructure and respect." proponents.
I saw this terrifying analysis of crash data in Ft Collins CO (from Cyclelicious via treehugger). The thing that scared me about it is that the most fatal kind of accidents are "hit from behinds" and "sideswipes". The thing that is so disturbing about this is that as a defensive cyclist I can ride outside the door zone, never overtake the right hand side of a moving vehicle, and go to extremes to make sure my right of way is respected before entering an intersection. However, there's nothing I can do to prevent someone texting or drunk, or just plain not paying attention from veering into me or crashing into me from behind.
I don't think that the solution to this is infrastructure or road presence, although they might help (especially protected cycle tracks. ) I'm becoming convinced that the solution is to impose extreme penalties on drivers who strike a cyclist or a pedestrian. "I just didn't see him" should cease to be a legal defense. If you're driving a multi- ton steel vehicle at speed in a public space, the burden of looking where you're going should rest fully on your shoulders. Except in some rare cases (ninja salmon come to time) the reason that drivers don't see cyclists and pedestrians is because they're not looking for them and they're not looking for them because there are rarely any consequences for hitting one. Such penalties exist in Europe. I have read that in any car- pedestrian collision in the Netherlands, the driver is automatically at fault, just like a rear end collision here. I would support taking away the license of anyone who hits a pedestrian or cyclist for a year regardless of fault, automatically. If the driver was behaving recklessly or was texting or drinking, there could be criminal prosecutions in parallel.
I think that until "accidents" are properly labeled "crashes" and vunerable road users (bikes, pedestrians, people in wheelchairs) are protected by law, there will be no incentive for drivers to pay attention and truly see the people who share the road with them.
A good post on a similar topic