Saturday, August 22, 2015

Walking is not a crime: Dunman and others on the scourges of jaywalking in auto-erotic America.

Photo credit: Vox (below).

I walk.

I walk a lot.

There is me, and there are hundreds of vehicles. Conscious of the disparity between 235 lbs and several thousand, I try to pay attention, but every now and then, I'll get distracted. except that I'm not moving very fast, and comparatively speaking, the vehicles are ... and at this late date, is it necessary to remind readers of how often all of us are distracted while driving?

Of how drivers talk, text, sing, and play with their cigarettes?

Of how they approach an intersection with a one-way street and look only in the direction of oncoming traffic, and almost never the other -- where a walker may be trying to cross?

Of how while distracted, they're usually traveling at an unsafe speed, especially in densely populated urban areas?

When you're walking, you see all of it, because you must do so for the sake of your own safety -- and for the sake of your own safety, you use your own two feet as intelligently and resourcefully as you can. Jaywalking isn't a crime. It's a defense mechanism to circumvent wheeled stupidity, plain and simple.

The Vox piece referenced by Dunman is worthy of a highlight.

The forgotten history of how automakers invented the crime of "jaywalking", by Joseph Stromberg

... "In the early days of the automobile, it was drivers' job to avoid you, not your job to avoid them," says Peter Norton, a historian at the University of Virginia and author of Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City. "But under the new model, streets became a place for cars — and as a pedestrian, it's your fault if you get hit."

One of the keys to this shift was the creation of the crime of jaywalking. Here's a history of how that happened.

Joe Dunman does a great  job of shining a light on another Fischer administration misstep: Blaming walkers for the behavior of drivers.

On LMPD’s jaywalking crackdown: We should not convert our police into well-armed tax collectors, by Joe Dunman (Insider Louisville)

... The idea that pedestrians don’t belong on the street and should only cross at narrowly defined places is a recent invention of the automobile age. Earlier this year, an illuminating article by Vox explored the history of traffic laws and jaywalking. In the old days now long gone, cities were a space for people, not cars. Now, especially since the Urban Renewal age of the 1960s and 1970s, all public space belongs to the almighty automobile. Where once it was the primary duty of vehicle drivers to avoid pedestrians, we now expect people on foot to get out of the way or risk death.

Not unexpectedly, there's this. How do supposed "Democrats" rationalize it?

It may or may not surprise you that the brunt of “broken windows” policies like jaywalking crackdowns falls disproportionately on the poor and non-white. Minor violations are used as an excuse to harass and financially exploit. In New York, 81 percent of the 7.3 million minor citations and summonses issued by police between 2001 and 2013 went to black and Hispanic people, who comprise much smaller minorities of the city’s total population.

Two years ago, NAC pointed to the following. It's worth a reprint. The passage below emphasizes solutions, but there is more to it. Hit the link, and learn.

Walking is Not a Crime: Questioning the Accident Axiom, by David M Nelson (Project for Public Spaces)

There are many things that can be done to keep pushing the message back to a place that values human life first, and speed and efficient movement of automobiles second. On the policy side, get a Vulnerable Users Law introduced into your state legislature. Vulnerable Users Laws shift the burden of evidence onto the more dangerous individual. Drivers are responsible for cyclists, cyclists for pedestrians. I’m a huge fan of these laws, because pedestrians are put on a pedestal. They’ve been popular in Europe and are catching on in the United States.

You can also pursue other policies like Vision Zero, famously applied in Sweden and currently being campaigned for by Transportation Alternatives in NYC. Essentially, Vision Zero is a directive to eliminate all pedestrian and cyclists fatalities in quick order. The central premise being, “that no loss of life is acceptable.” Concerning law and order, you can find local lawyers to represent and advocate for justice on the behalf of pedestrians and cyclists injured or killed by drivers.

You can work to lower the speed of traffic. More specifically, advocate to decrease the range of speeds driven over a segment of road. A fundamental belief in traffic engineering is that differences in operating speed causes higher risks of crashes. Spread can be reduced by lowering speed limits and using roundabouts instead of signalized intersections. The end result is travel times remain the same but maximum operating speed and the range of speeds are significantly lowered. Other geometric changes include narrower lanes, pedestrian refuge islands, neck-downs and Rightsizing.

However, only so much will be accomplished until our local papers and the nightly news starts putting pressure on state DOTs and public works departments to keep our citizens safe on foot. So, first and foremost, pay closer attention to the way that pedestrian deaths are portrayed by the local media in your area, and don’t be afraid to put pressure your local news outlets when you see improper coverage that blames the victim. It is easy to find language in your State Statutes that debunk published misconceptions about crosswalks and jaywalking. We all have the right to walk—and like most rights, it’s one that must be defended.

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