Thursday, December 06, 2012

"Death by Car," and other all-too common occurrences.

Kolker's piece is a long read, but worth the time. I've ranted on this topic previously.

ON THE AVENUES: Afoot in NA with the 69% solution.

All our sidewalks might be rebuilt, and even the occasional bike lane striped, but unless New Albany is prepared to classify systemic discrimination against the urban zone’s persecuted walkers and bicyclists as part and parcel of a fully funded enforcement mechanism, under the auspices of a human rights commission, things won’t get any better around here.

Okay, I’m exaggerating, though only slightly.

Back to Kolker. He begins by telling the story of a fatality, then unravels cause and effect.

Death by Car, by Robert Kolker (New York)

Walkers, motorists, and bikers are locked in a perpetual struggle for territory, frequently with untoward results. In the past decade, more New Yorkers were killed or seriously hurt in or by cars than were killed or seriously hurt by guns ...

... Safety advocates’ biggest complaint, however, is with the New York City Police Department, which, they say, lets drivers do whatever they want. “The NYPD is still stuck in the mind-set that some crashes are just inevitable—the price of living in the big city,” says Paul Steely White, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives, a leading advocacy organization that campaigns for better bicycling, walking, and public transit in New York. “If you stay at the scene and you’re not drunk, you can pretty much get away with murder.”

This is reminiscent of the numerous times in the past decade -- possible as many as once -- when motorists striking bicyclists in Louisville actually had charges placed against them.

We're provided context as to what alleviates the problem, which as usual indicates that the detested Europeans are light years ahead of us.

European cities cracked down on speeding cars—bringing the speed limit down to 30 kilometers, or 20 miles, per hour, and down even further in some areas to something called “walking speed.” Many of those cities also worked to maintain a balance between cars on the one hand and pedestrians and cyclists on the other, in terms of who dominated the roads.

But in America, where the car is king, such measures have been adopted only reluctantly.

Those of us who walk and bike regularly understand all too well that thousands of pounds of metal combined with unnecessary speed kill.

In 2010, in keeping with Bloomberg’s penchant for data-driven analysis, Sadik-Khan issued the results of a report the DOT had undertaken on pedestrian safety. The idea, she says, was to help the city learn “who gets hit, why they get hit, where they get hit, and how they get hit.” The prime culprit turned out to be speeding cars. The study noted that a pedestrian struck at 40 miles per hour is four times more likely to die than one struck at 30 miles per hour, who in turn is six times more likely to die than one struck at 20 miles per hour. The report also showed that 74 percent of the car crashes resulting in fatalities and serious injuries took place at intersections, not highways. The most likely way to die on the street in a car-related crash in New York, the DOT’s data suggests, is the same way Jessica Dworkin died—at the hands of a driver who was turning at an intersection. Most of those incidents do not appear to be the pedestrian’s fault: 57 percent of those crashes occurred while the pedestrian was crossing with the signal. The problem, in other words, is cars.

Here's the kicker.

Even if all the improvements they hope for were to happen, neighbors are convinced that redesigning the curbs and defining the lanes would only go so far. On a corner like Houston and Sixth, Secunda says, “You need a lot of traffic agents. And the police just haven’t provided them.” Transportation Alternatives has collected records of major accidents that suggest that the intersection had at least 41 crashes that injured pedestrians and cyclists between 1995 and 2009. NYPD crash reports for this year show that between August 2011 and July 2012, there were 34 crashes that injured seven people. But from January through August 1 of this year, the entire First and Sixth precincts, which share responsibility for that intersection, wrote just 46 speeding tickets and 186 failure-to-yield tickets.

Defective headlights, meanwhile, received 703 tickets.

Read the article, okay?

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