Time to End Traffic Violence
Love this quote from Leigh Gallagher in the NYTimes:
All the pedestrian warnings in the world won’t matter if we’re encouraging foot traffic where motorists are hitting highway speeds. It’s like removing all the guardrails at the top of the Empire State Building and expecting people to use common sense not to fall off.
Gallagher points out that safety campaigns and more signage won’t reduce traffic related fatalities and injuries if the streets where people walk and bike are designed for high speed traffic. Its time for American cities to accept that highways and cities are incompatible. If a road is wide, straight and uncluttered then people will drive fast and not pay attention to the humans trying to cross.
Ever wonder how city streets become high speed (over 25mph-10 times walking speed) arterials? Historically, the traffic mafia would build streets to be comfortable and “safe” for motorists, post a speed limit and then if there were complaints of speeding, observe traffic and re-set the speed limit at the speed that 85% of the drivers were traveling. Suddenly, local streets became legalized speedways, leading to widening those streets, eliminating parking, signals and crosswalks to make it “safer” for motorists going faster, thus starting the cycle all over again. What were local access roads for businesses and homes became no-people zones.
Even downtowns suffer from this, wasting valuable land for short, twice daily surges of traffic that remain empty the rest of the day.
It is time for us to stop talking about traffic safety when our streets are designed to be dangerous to people walking or cycling: the term “traffic violence” better captures that this is a very preventable problem that needs us to look at our cities from a different perspective, that is, places for people, not speeding multi-ton vehicles.