Sunday, March 13, 2016

Team Gahan's walkability gap (4 of many): "We’re all apparently okay with dead pedestrians as collateral damage for ensuring cars can travel quickly."

I walk a lot.

Without a shred of self-aggrandizement, I probably walk more miles in a week than Team Gahan put together. When you walk, you see things good and bad that aren't apparent at higher travel speeds.

What I've seen lately is an escalating rate of speed on our one-way arterial streets. Apart from two brief occasions, I haven't measured speed with the radar gun I bought last year, but after a while, it isn't necessary. With experience, one can become a good guesser.

It's getting bad.

The other day I clocked cars and trucks on Spring Street, where the speed "limit" is 30 (and occasionally 25) mph. Out of 20 cars, 14 were clocked between 35 and 40 mph, and the usual trolls are primed and ready: "But Roger, the cops give 10 mph leeway. No one will ticket at 38 mph."

I understand that, although here's the flip side: I couldn't see what eight of those drivers looked like, because their heads were pointed straight down, toward their crotches.

Maybe a quick glance at the chart reprinted above from PED Atlanta will offer a wee bit of insight as to why the additional rate of speed matters in a populated area, not to mention the habit of driving too fast while not looking at the road.

Why should Team Gahan care that you're driving fast and reckless on city streets? It's because someone's going to be hurt. My friend Bob's daughter already was, two Harvest Homecomings ago. Jeff Gahan has done absolutely nothing to address or correct the situation in the year and a half elapsing since then.

I don't know why it must be explained to them again and again, but it does. They take such price in nothingness. If they'd get up off their slothful asses and go for a walk, perhaps it might finally sink in.


 ... I know that life itself is dangerous and that we can’t avoid every instance of something tragic like this. But we’ve built a transportation system that significantly increases the likelihood of this kind of thing happening.

We design roads to allow cars to move as quickly as possible, and we funnel them all onto our major roadways at roughly the same two rush hour times five days a week. The speed limit on most downtown Minneapolis streets is 30 miles per hour, and roads are often designed in ways that allow cars to move much faster. This is despite the fact that getting hit at that 30 MPH will kill 50% of the victims and this is in a place where there are thousands of people walking around each day.

It’s a terribly fragile system. The emphasis on throughput during ideal conditions gives us utterly unrealistic expectations that it should always go so smoothly, even in dense urban areas where auto travel should be slow and difficult. And when those conditions aren’t present, it gets messy quickly. Tragedies like the one during Tuesday’s storm are not accidents. They are the byproduct of a system focused almost exclusively on one mode of travel. We can crow all we want about individual responsibility–whether by blaming the victim for not anticipating a car taking an illegal turn in bad conditions or by prosecuting the driver for what might constitute vehicular manslaughter–but in the end this is much bigger than this incident.

The system is working the way it was designed, and the way it was designed means that pedestrians get killed sometimes. And while that would probably be true in any version of a modern transportation system, let’s not kid ourselves that this is the absolute only way we could do things. We could make streets narrower to slow cars down. We could make more areas pedestrian only, closing them off to vehicles so that walkers can know they are safe without needing to be hyperaware of possible danger. We could limit turns on red lights more. We could punish drivers who hit or kill those on foot with stronger penalties and more jail time (or any jail time at all). There’s plenty we could do, if we wanted to.

But we don’t. I wish we’d just admit that we’re all apparently okay with dead pedestrians as collateral damage for ensuring cars can travel quickly. At least that would be honest.

1 comment:

w&la said...

Hell, if they'd walk the city sidewalks against the direction of the one-way traffic and look around, they'd see that many New Albany slumlords only put siding on the sides of the houses that can be seen while driving down the one-way street.

It's true. I can list addresses for the non-believers.