Greater Greater Washington

Itís time we stopped living with roads that are killing us

The day before Thanksgiving, Loudoun County elementary school principal Kathleen Hwang died. She was trying to cross a road in her Sterling neighborhood.


Los Angeles. Photo by waltarrrrr on Flickr.

How should we react to such a tragedy? Certainly we should mourn the loss of a beloved member of the community. But can we also learn from this experience as part of an effort to stop it from happening again? ...

Where does the blame rest? The sad fact is that weour society as a wholecreated this problem. That's because we relentlessly build communities that aren't safe to walk in.

Read more in my latest op-ed in the Washington Post.

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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Try to cross in any of the mid-block pedestrian crosswalks on 14th St between P and U and you'll know how a bowling pin feels.

It's not just the suburbs.

by Tom Coumaris on Dec 1, 2012 11:40 am • linkreport

So someone commits suicide by walking into traffic and it is society's fault for making the road unsafe? That is absurd as blaming the design of a bridge because someone jumped off of it. At worst, a poorly designed road is an inconvenience. It is never an excuse for not paying attention.

What we need to do is learn why so many people fail to take responsibility for themselves. That is the problem that needs correcting. By the way, my principal, Dr. Payne, was instrumental in teaching me personal responsibility.

by movement on Dec 1, 2012 1:41 pm • linkreport

Sorry, David, but the "living with roads that are killing us" angle is a bit of a stretch. Some might even call it a strawman argument.

Evidence shows that Ms. Hwang wasn't paying attention to her surroundings and carelessly walked into the path of a moving vehicle - that, BTW, was not speeding or being driven recklessly.

As a result, a woman, well-loved by her family and community, is dead and a young man's life is irrevocably altered and quite possibly ruined. We shouldn't be surprised if that kid turns to alcohol, drugs or crime to deal with his pain and guilt and eventually ends up in the justice system as a result. I hope it doesn't come to that.

When a bicyclist killed a woman on a bike trail earlier this year, I don't recall seeing righteous indignation from GGW or from the bike community blaming the trail design. As matter of fact, the bike community by and large blamed the victim and I saw nothing from GGW in opposition to their position.

To hear you tell it, a pedestrian gets killed by a car, and someone or something other than the pedestrian MUST be at fault. In this case, you can't blame the driver so you blame the road.

I frankly feel quite safe walking in an area that's "designed for cars" because I can see them and they can see me. I live in a planned community off Route 450 in Bowie. The community has sidewalks but I often walk along 450 in an area with no sidewalks and feel quite safe. Why? Because I pay attention to my surroundings and act with caution.

I feel at least as safe walking there, in fact, as I do in urban "walkable neighborhoods" where I have to contend with turning vehicles, inattentive/impatient drivers, blind spots caused by vehicles parked at intersections, and bicycles running red lights.

by ceefer66 on Dec 1, 2012 2:00 pm • linkreport

I agree that pedestrians should take personal responsibility, only when drivers do the same. Drivers need to stop blaming the "road design" for speeding, or the "length of the yellow light" for running a red light, or the "flow of traffic" for blocking the crosswalk. When a driver gets a ticket, stop blaming the environment because it is the driver that is at fault. Take personal responsibility!

by dc denizen on Dec 1, 2012 2:03 pm • linkreport

Commenters on here and at WaPo are missing the point in favor of playing the blame game. From a systems perspective, it is irrelevant whether the driver or the pedestrian was at fault in this or any case. Our current road network would fail a risk assessment; they are not sufficiently protecting users. More pedestrians are dying every year than in 9/11. The system ( in this case the built environment) has to be altered so that when inevitable human error happens, it does not have fatal consequences. This IS possible, but it requires a change in mindset of traffic engineers.

by renegade09 on Dec 1, 2012 2:19 pm • linkreport

There's a difference between who is legally at fault in a collision on the real, underlying reasons someone was killed or injured. It's worth exploring how both situations can be improved but its disingenuous to confuse the two in an attempt to prove something about a story or reaction.

Also the lady kille on the trail last year is a tragedy but also a freak accident because it rarely, rarely, rarely happens. Meanwhile we have weekly stories about people getting killed in vehicles and still think its a problem of personal responsibility. Where's the social responsibility to consider the safety and convenience needs of pedestrians in our urban areas?

by Drumz on Dec 1, 2012 3:52 pm • linkreport

So someone commits suicide by walking into traffic and it is society's fault for making the road unsafe? That is absurd as blaming the design of a bridge because someone jumped off of it.

I think this is really all you need to read to understand majority culture in the US. Trying to cross a street on foot is the equivalent of jumping off a bridge. Fascinating!

Seriously, though, walking is still non-normative behavior. Driving is normative. So if you're killed walking, it's your own damned fault, what with the walking on the feet and not driving. What did you expect!?!

On the other hand, if you're driving, you're just like me and all my friends. And we're good people, and we always pay attention, and would be utterly gutted if we ran someone over. Therefore, it can never be the fault of a driver, and infrastructure can not be improved upon. That might delay me by several seconds.

by oboe on Dec 1, 2012 3:58 pm • linkreport

Evidence shows that Ms. Hwang wasn't paying attention to her surroundings and carelessly walked into the path of a moving vehicle - that, BTW, was not speeding or being driven recklessly.

Just to pick this apart a bit: there's zero evidence that Ms Hwang wasn't paying attention to her surroundings. Or that she "carelessly" walked into the path of a moving vehicle.

You'll note that many commenters have talked about "glare" as a possible reason the truck never saw Hwang or attempted to stop. Always as a way of absolving the driver, but never as a possible explanation for the pedestrian's actions. Then again, she was "wearing headphones" according to the police spokesperson. Was the driver listening to the radio? Again, evidence is only brought up if it absolves the driver but not the pedestrian.

The police spokesperson is quick to assert that the driver was "not speeding". But what does that mean? Surely she's not saying the police have determined the driver wasn't going over the posted speed limit. Because there's no way they could determine this with any accuracy.

There are to competing arguments here: one, that our built environment should be made safer; the other that of all the various road users, only pedestrians should have perfect situational awareness at all times at the risk of their lives. And that if they're killed, and the driver is not drunk, then they're ipso facto at fault.

by oboe on Dec 1, 2012 4:12 pm • linkreport

When a bicyclist killed a woman on a bike trail earlier this year, I don't recall seeing righteous indignation from GGW or from the bike community blaming the trail design. As matter of fact, the bike community by and large blamed the victim and I saw nothing from GGW in opposition to their position.

Funny how we misremember things when we want to. It might bolster your argument if you could link to or quote a single instance of blaming the victim, much less "the bike community by and large" doing so.

Also, if you haven't heard "the bike community" decrying shitty trail design for years now, it's because you've been engaging in selective listening.

by oboe on Dec 1, 2012 4:15 pm • linkreport

From the comments:

There was no description, that I have seen, of the color of her clothing but that probably contributed to her death.

Pitch perfect example of how we invent evidence that leads to the conclusion we want to arrive at. Heck we don't even need to read any evidence, we'll create all we need.

by oboe on Dec 1, 2012 4:18 pm • linkreport

I think you've gotten a little carried away with this. Did she do everything she could to keep herself safe, including complaining about the unsafe condition of the road, crossing at the safest place, taking off her headphones and looking carefully while crossing? The roads are never going to be 100% safe, so there are always tradeoffs. It would seem she set her tradeoff point at not saying anything and not being very worried about the traffic. She paid the price. We can all learn something from that, but blame and guilt are not part of that.

by Alan on Dec 1, 2012 4:18 pm • linkreport

Funny how we misremember things when we want to. It might bolster your argument if you could link to or quote a single instance of blaming the victim, much less "the bike community by and large" doing so.

Also, if you haven't heard "the bike community" decrying shitty trail design for years now, it's because you've been engaging in selective listening.
-----
I long-ago stopped responding to you, oboe, but I can't let this go personal attack go unanswered.

I remember perfectly well the biking community - and its apologists (yourself among them) blaming the VICTIM in the incident last May.

I also remember cycling apologists (yourself among them) harrassing and insulting anyone who differed - as you are now.

by ceefer66 on Dec 1, 2012 4:22 pm • linkreport

Did she do everything she could to keep herself safe,

Is there any other hazard where we require this standard of behavior from people?

I'd also like to repeat a comment somebody else made on the previous GGW post on the death of Kathleen Hwang: saying that a pedestrian shouldn't expect to be able to cross a street safely if the pedestrian is wearing headphones and therefore can't hear a car coming is saying that a pedestrian shouldn't expect to be able to cross the street safely if the pedestrian is deaf.

by Miriam on Dec 1, 2012 4:46 pm • linkreport

ceefer, there is no relation between feeling safe and BEING safe.

by Omri on Dec 1, 2012 4:49 pm • linkreport

Ceefer,

You're still trying to extrapolate grand meaning from something that happened once. A lady being hit by a bike and dying vs the regular occurrence of people being stick by vehicles and dying and saying that the problem lies mainly with pedestrians

by Drumz on Dec 1, 2012 5:17 pm • linkreport

I remember perfectly well the biking community - and its apologists (yourself among them) blaming the VICTIM in the incident last May.

Memory is a strange thing. You could be right. I doubt it. If you are, it shouldn't be hard to find one or two comments that did so.

by oboe on Dec 1, 2012 5:27 pm • linkreport

@ceefer66:

Here, in the spirit of the holidays, let me help you with that:

http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/15154/cyclist-kills-pedestrian-does-calling-on-your-left-not-work/

by oboe on Dec 1, 2012 5:55 pm • linkreport

Here's my contribution by the way:
Trail: If there's any question at all (elderly, children, etc...) slow down to a walking pace. Never pass three abreast. Give an audible notice.

Sidewalk: In an area with any pedestrian traffic, commercial establishments, etc..., you should not be on the sidewalk. Period. If you're on the sidewalk, and it's anything but completely depopulated, you should be cycling at a walking pace.

by oboe on Dec 1, 2012 5:59 pm • linkreport

It is so incredibly frustrating and sad to read so many comments from people who completely fail to comprehend the issue at hand. Everyone wants to discuss the circumstances of how Ms. Hwang was killed. Looking through the current list of comments at this time there is only one comment that addresses the main issue. I am copy/pasting it.

Commenters on here and at WaPo are missing the point in favor of playing the blame game. From a systems perspective, it is irrelevant whether the driver or the pedestrian was at fault in this or any case. Our current road network would fail a risk assessment; they are not sufficiently protecting users. More pedestrians are dying every year than in 9/11. The system ( in this case the built environment) has to be altered so that when inevitable human error happens, it does not have fatal consequences. This IS possible, but it requires a change in mindset of traffic engineers.

by renegade09 on Dec 1, 2012 2:19 pm

Good job, renegade09. You're the only commenter I've seen that understood the article.

by BC on Dec 1, 2012 6:29 pm • linkreport

Alan: Did she do everything she could to keep herself safe,

Miriam: Is there any other hazard where we require this standard of behavior from people?

That's exactly my point. We don't put that standard on anyone, not on her and not on ourselves. You can choose to put that standard on yourself, but that is your choice. In this case, she chose not to, and she paid the price. If she's not willing to put that standard on herself, why should we put on ourselves?

by Alan on Dec 1, 2012 6:41 pm • linkreport

Alan, I will try again. Is there any other system that we engineer so that it is safe only if the person using the system does everything they can to keep themselves safe? It seems to me that there are a lot of systems that we engineer so that people are safe even if they do not do everything they can to keep themselves safe. And these systems include roads -- for people who are in cars.

by Miriam on Dec 1, 2012 7:06 pm • linkreport

From what I've heard, 30-35 miles per hour is the number at which the incidence of death between a car and pedestrian collision goes way up. Roads have continuously been designed for more than that in the suburbs whatever speed limit might be posted, so drivers avail themselves of the open roads and make crossing the street a fatal proposition, ear buds or not. While I might have stopped short of saying "we" are killing people, there's no denying that the focus on road design ought to be more balanced towards the kind of communities more and more americans are sdking for. This might elicit another volley from the "war against the car" crowd but I think a closer appraisal would show that we've been designing for cars at the expense of pedestrians for more than 50 years now. It's time to tip the scales for a while, especially considering the shifting economics. Come to think about it, maybe that's why municipalities are doing this on their own.

by Thayer-D on Dec 1, 2012 8:35 pm • linkreport

@ceefer: You are correct that the design of the bike lane was not blamed when the female pedestrian was killed in a crash with a cyclist. But you are wrong to say that cyclists blamed the victim. My recollection was that on the Washcycle blog (but maybe here) alot of people blamed the cyclist for shouting "left".

While downhhill skiers are taught to shout "on your left" when passing someone with a small speed differential, that works because everyone is taught the same thing and the speed differential is small--otherwise when passing you stay completely clear. Conversely, pedestrians do not have to take lessons before walking on a trail so it is absurd to shout "left", as a pedestrian may think you want them to move left.

That was the essence of the discussion--how cyclists can avoid hurting pedestrians.

I personally think that at least in Prince Georges County, the primary problem is not the roads but rather the driver education and enforcement. I am not kidding?: most police do not know what a crosswalk is. The police do not stop for pedestrians in unmarked crosswalks, and will change lanes to pass a driver who does so--and stare at the driver to see if he is drunk or on a cell phone. Drivers regularly pass my at 50 mph with 1 or 2 feet of clearance when I walk my bike accross an unmarked crosswalk. We need to make crosswalk violations as socially unacceptable as drink driving.

by JimT on Dec 1, 2012 9:22 pm • linkreport

I agree that pedestrians should take personal responsibility, only when drivers do the same. Drivers need to stop blaming the "road design" for speeding, or the "length of the yellow light" for running a red light, or the "flow of traffic" for blocking the crosswalk. When a driver gets a ticket, stop blaming the environment because it is the driver that is at fault. Take personal responsibility!

Right?!

by Neil Flanagan on Dec 1, 2012 10:31 pm • linkreport

Transit patrons, school bus riders, pedestrians, bike riders, drivers of private motor vehicles and drivers of commercial motor vehicles (trucks and buses) are all users of the transportation system.

Very nearly all of those users are also users of the street and highway network (in the Washington region, the only exceptions being Metro riders that don't need to use a sidewalk, bus or motor vehicle at all - and presumably the users of the subways on Capitol Hill, since those do not require interaction with the street and highway networks).

This notion of the transportation system needs to be taught. To all of those users. Not just persons with driving privileges (since drivers around here need to be 16+ years old before getting a license).

by C. P. Zilliacus on Dec 1, 2012 10:57 pm • linkreport

Situational awareness is key to survival of anyone. Clearly we are being distracted by ear pods, smart phones, and GPS but we are also living longer into years when people are less aware of their surroundings. As long as we have traffic, distractions, and people with their minds elsewhere we will have to live with this type of tragedy and that only gets worse with illness and medication which further place our heads in the clouds. A change in course is not in the cards unless people would like to opt to leave their ear pods and smart phone out of the picture when driving, biking, running, and walking.

by Andrew on Dec 2, 2012 7:17 am • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Mike O on Dec 2, 2012 8:50 am • linkreport

There is seldom a single, simple cause for a collision. In this case, there's nothing to explain why either the lady stepped out in front of an oncoming car, nor why the driver of the car failed to stop, or swerve, to avoid the collision.

One of my neighbors was hit by a car here as she pushed a baby stroller across the street, in a crosswalk. The question is, why didn't the driver stop? Perfect visibility, broad daylight, low speed. But the driver hit the pedestrian, and the MPD, bizarrely, ticketed the pedestrian for crossing without a "walk" signal. Why didn't the driver just stop? No explanation for that, and no MPD citation, either.

Something else was going on in these cases that led to the collision. It's not just rotten road design. Distracted pedestrian? Distracted driver? Both? This collision was plainly preventable, despite the road design.

by Jack on Dec 2, 2012 9:50 am • linkreport

It is so incredibly frustrating and sad to read so many comments from people who completely fail to comprehend the issue at hand.

I was thinking the same thing. It seems like the majority of the comments focus on attacking, or defending, behavior of either drivers or pedestrians, rather than the issue that was teed up - whether road design (really, infrastructure design) could be improved to optimize safety for ALL who, as CP said, use the transportation system.

by dcd on Dec 2, 2012 9:53 am • linkreport

Mr Alpert, the pedestrian design in the suburbs is hopeless. Yesterday I was driving about in College Park in terrible traffic -- even police were fast-weaving to get through it, out of frustration.

We all know the issues. This is not a $10 problem; every walk signal cost many thousands, and there is not enough money to put them everywhere. Given the limitations of funding, what easy things can be done that will really help?

by goldfish on Dec 2, 2012 10:24 am • linkreport

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.] It's sad that so many of these discussions want to question everything and not look at all of the people who are affected or simply treat humans as human.

by selxic on Dec 2, 2012 10:27 am • linkreport

Jeez, louise. All the David-haters should read or re-read Tom Wolfe's "The Right Stuff." That book dealt with a not-dissimilar mass psychological reaction to a systemic danger.

To summarize: fighter pilots testing the latest and greatest technology died at an alarming clip, in many and sundry ways. The fighter pilot ethos did not acknowledge the possibility of "system failure" in the craft they flew, but correlated survival to having a skill -- "the right stuff" -- and death to some kind of personal flaw. "Any of us survivors would have....[insert option here, punched out, not punched out, bailed on the approach, not worn earbuds, worn brighter clothing, whatever.]

The point is that there are massive psychological forces for individuals to deny that they live in inherently threatening systems, and it takes a lot of gumption to point out the thing that everyone is denying for their psychological health.

People may find this a shrill comparison, but imagine you are a seal living on the Farralon Islands or in South Africa. Every day to feed you have to leave the safety of the shore and risk being eaten by a shark. You might tell yourself that every day you survive is because you have a special skill at navigating the system, and that the bloke who got eaten had some kind of fatal flaw that was regrettable but there we are. This approach would give you psychological calmness (don't worry, I also remember you're a seal).

But if you admitted that every time you went out to eat you had a statistical chance of being randomly consumed by a Great White, that would be a very stressful idea to carry around.

I'm not really comparing cars to great white sharks -- though the idea amuses me -- or even to suggest that seals have any policy levers to reduce the risk of being eaten by sharks -- but as humans we have a certain measure of control over the systems we inhabit, and hopefully a little more awareness than seals about ways we might get out of the systems we navigate every day.

by jnb on Dec 2, 2012 10:48 am • linkreport

Dave: Thank you for preparing the op-ed piece for the Washington Post. The readers of GGW are aware of and sensitive to the problems faced by pedestrians in suburban areas but we need to reach out to and gain support from a broader audience in order to achieve real change. It will take many years.

by Frank Spielberg on Dec 2, 2012 11:28 am • linkreport

Interesting read, David, but wondering if you bothered to survey the accident scene before writing your piece. I can tell you I have walked/jogged the area hundreds of times. I have seen precisely where the accident took place. The sidewalk is well-separated from the curb. It is adjacent to a flat, 4-lane undivided residential roadway. On a slight curve, yes, but far from a blind curve. Traffic is at times moderate, usually light, never heavy. Placing crosswalks every 100-feet is not practical and would largely be ignored by walkers. Tragic? Horribly yes, but not sure what your point is in this specific case....

by Dave on Dec 2, 2012 12:03 pm • linkreport

"Given the limitations of funding, what easy things can be done that will really help?"

Let's add on street parking and other traffic calming strategies that also work towards improving and encouraging walking like tree'd medians to break down the scale of some of these overly wide suburban streets.

I was just reading about turning over some of the beltway to wealthy drivers who can pay for express a lanes rather than imposing a gas tax the way President Eisenhower did. When are we going to start pay for the things we want?

by Thayer-D on Dec 2, 2012 12:58 pm • linkreport

The Capital Crescent Trail is a wonderful way for pedestrians to travel between Silver Spring and DC. While there are some major thoroughfares to navigate, the trail crosses under Wisconsin Avenue and over River Road. The designers of the Purple Line continue to tell us that the trail will still be usable, but they always forget to mention that there will many, many fewer entry/exit points to the trail. The points that'll be inaccessible will be the ones people use directly from their neighborhoods.

by Beth on Dec 2, 2012 2:21 pm • linkreport

Beth - The Capital Crescent Trail doesn't go to Silver Spring now, and it won't until the Purple Line is built. Where it's now paved, from Bethesda to Georgetown, it won't change at all. East of Bethesda the existing gravel track will be replaced by a paved trail.

by Ben Ross on Dec 2, 2012 4:47 pm • linkreport

Thank you David for the article and op-ed. As we push for more TOD and walkable communities, we (the public) must educate ourselves that roads are for everyone. Drivers are not the only users of the roads. Everyone (drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists) must become more aware of everyone else using the roads.

by Tina Slater on Dec 2, 2012 5:16 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Anonymously on Dec 2, 2012 5:44 pm • linkreport

It is undeniable that many roads in the suburbs are poorly designed for pedestrian safety and ease of use. The reason is that the roads were designed with vehicular traffic in mind because when they were built, there was little demand for walkability by the middle class in the suburbs. Times have changed and there is greater demand for walkability but we're still stuck with roads that are from a different era. This is pretty much a fact.

Whether the road in this specific instance is an appropriate poster child for the improvements to walkability we need for suburban roads is debatable. It doesn't seem like this particular road segment is nearly as bad as many many other road segments in the suburbs. Also, trying to build the exurbs to the same standard of pedestrian friendliness as the city or inner suburbs doesn't make sense.

So, Alpert is making a very valid point about the need to update our roads to accommodate shifts in the market demand for walkability but I don't know that this tragedy is the best example to make that point.

by Falls Church on Dec 2, 2012 5:50 pm • linkreport

Did she do everything she could to keep herself safe, including complaining about the unsafe condition of the road

Isn't complaining about the unsafe condition of the road what we're doing here?

by Falls Church on Dec 2, 2012 5:53 pm • linkreport

As long as we have traffic, distractions, and people with their minds elsewhere we will have to live with this type of tragedy and that only gets worse with illness and medication which further place our heads in the clouds. A change in course is not in the cards unless people would like to opt to leave their ear pods and smart phone out of the picture when driving, biking, running, and walking.

Actually, we spend tons of money every year in this area redesigning roads so that they are safer for drivers. In nearly every case, we wouldn't need to redesign them if all drivers drove in a safe manner at all times. However, that's not a practical expectation.

Just one small example is the redesign of the Rt. 50 / Courthouse Rd interchange in Arlington. This project to extend the acceleration/deceleration lanes costs $40M and is mainly designed to improve vehicular safety -- even though we wouldn't need this project if every driver took every precaution at all times. If we can spend lots of money to improve vehicular safety, why not spend at least a small amount for ped safety too?

by Falls Church on Dec 2, 2012 6:04 pm • linkreport

This is disappointing given the usual civil tone of your arguments in your opinion pieces and blog. David, when you accuse the public of collectively being responsible for the death of pedestrians as you did near the end of your recent op-ed column it does nothing to contribute to the discussion at hand. It's unfair to the readers of your blog and is purposely hyperbolic and incendiary language on an important media publication. I hope you try better in future opinion pieces to avoid those kind of analogy choices again. It's not helpful to any cause for those of us concerned with smart growth.

by Mike O on Dec 2, 2012 10:29 pm • linkreport

David is saying we have the power to improve our environment if we demand it. It's a huge uphill climb but at some point it's not enough to pillory the traffic engineer. BTW, thank you San Francisco for designing an American Fire Truck to work in more humane streets so it's not the tail wagging the dog. Now if we could see the height limit debate in this light, we might see some real ingenuity without sacrificing what many of us love about DC.

by Thayer-D on Dec 3, 2012 9:22 am • linkreport

I agree with all 3 of Falls Church's posts above.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 3, 2012 9:27 am • linkreport

I agree with what @Falls Church is saying too. I'm not sure what the term is but I'll call it a "forgiving environment". Another example I can think of are those ridges on the side of the road that alert a driver that they are going off the road. The intention was to prevent drivers from falling asleep at the wheel. This is forgiving, because otherwise we could say that if you fall asleep at the wheel, tough. I wish that traffic engineers also design a more forgiving environment for pedestrians.

by dc denizen on Dec 3, 2012 10:07 am • linkreport

Kaid Benfield just posted an excellent review of Jeff Speck's new book that seems to point out some of the ideas that David is promoting.
http://www.theatlanticcities.com/design/2012/12/10-techniques-making-cities-more-walkable/4047/

by Thayer-D on Dec 3, 2012 10:39 am • linkreport

The only problem is that David's piece wasn't more pointed. The fundamental issue is that people don't take driving seriously enough to pay sufficient attention when driving their cars, and that law enforcement does not sufficiently enforce pedestrian safety laws to give drivers an expectation that they will receive a penalty when they drive badly.

All the discussion that revolves around the need for pedestrians to take all the responsibility for their safety misses the point that pedestrians include various vulnerable segments of the population (who have a right to use public sidewalks), and that the only only people on the road who are assumed to be competent enough to be responsible for their own behavior are the ones behind the wheel (who have been granted the privilege of driving by the state). The person operating the large, deadly moving object has a clear responsibility to operate it in a manner that is deferential to the safety of those around him--clearly higher than his need to play with his phone or shave or "space out". Until society starts holding people accountable for their behavior behind the wheel, we will continue to have an enormous number of automobile-related deaths, and road design won't really change that much.

by Mike on Dec 3, 2012 10:45 am • linkreport

Pedestrians should take all the responsibility.
Drivers should take all the responsibility.
Road Design and the people who plan them should take all the responsibility.

Deja Vu anyone?

FWIW, the cyclist who killed the elderly lady conversation wasn't an assault on the victim. It turned into a simple discussion of cat-calls riders do/don't like to use/hear. Trail Design was never an issue nor the style bike used.

by HogWash on Dec 3, 2012 11:35 am • linkreport

When a bicyclist killed a woman on a bike trail earlier this year, I don't recall seeing righteous indignation from GGW or from the bike community blaming the trail design. As matter of fact, the bike community by and large blamed the victim and I saw nothing from GGW in opposition to their position.

Actually, the GGW article (which Alpert wrote himself) stated:

- "the first rule always must be that people riding bikes need to be careful around pedestrians"

- "Cyclists on a multi-use trail need to realize they are the less vulnerable road user and take care to react to unpredictable pedestrian moves"

- "if a person on a bike wants to use a sidewalk, they must act like guests, deferring to pedestrians no matter how slowly they want to walk or how much they are blocking the path"

And Alpert frequently writes about how to design trails and paths so that they are safer for all users.

by Scoot on Dec 3, 2012 11:40 am • linkreport

cat calls? "on your left" is a cat call? well. This puts the times I've been passed on the trails by riders in spandex calling "on your left" in a very different light. Hmmm.

And IIRC trail design was not an issue because at the location in question, under a bridge, there really wasn't a design option. Which is not to say that the trail layout was not a contributing factor. And we have certainly discussed better trail design where it IS an option.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 3, 2012 11:41 am • linkreport

"Trail Design was never an issue nor the style bike used."

let me refresh your memory

"There also needs to be a discussion about trails and adequate bike facilities. I do whatever is safest on any occaison (which means slowing down to walking speed sometimes) and the trails as they are should be leisure as well as transport but we'll be caught in a visicious cycle if we consistently make the roads to dangerous to feel safe in and the trails to slow to actually mean anything. Especially as the trails are becoming more popular.

by drumz on Jun 12, 2012 8:54 am • link • report"

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 3, 2012 11:43 am • linkreport

Mixing cars and pedestrians is inherently dangerous. It will never be 100% safe. The solution in most cases is not safer roads, it is safer cars. Car manufacturers was working on technology such as forward looking cameras and radar systems that can detect a passenger in the path of the vehicle and then either alert the driver and/or prevent the collision without driver action. That technology likely would have prevented this accident, and is ultimately what will make crossing roads safer for pedestrians.

by Alan on Dec 3, 2012 12:15 pm • linkreport

cat calls? "on your left" is a cat call? well

Seems like you understood my point. But if it makes you feel better to act as if you didn't, ok.

let me refresh your memory

Thanks but my memory is fine. There wasn't a "serious" discussion about trail design nor the type of bike used. Again, my memory is fine in this regard.

by HogWash on Dec 3, 2012 12:42 pm • linkreport

There was not a long discussion about trail design because

A. The question of how a cyclist should signal a pass to a pedestrian is a big issue, an issue that seemed to be directly responsible for that accident, and that was what DA's post was about.

B. The principle discussion of infrastructure was about the need to make better accommodation of bikes on roads, so faster cyclists would be less likely to use multiuse trails.

If you are aware of any particular aspect of the trail design, or of the type of bicycle ridden, that contributed to the accident and would make for a good discussion, I am sure DA would welcome you writting such an article and posting it. Meanwhile I don't see the point of criticizing DA's choice of topics.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 3, 2012 12:59 pm • linkreport

If you are aware of any particular aspect of the trail design, or of the type of bicycle ridden, that contributed to the accident and would make for a good discussion, I am sure DA would welcome you writting such an article and posting it.

I'm sure he wouldn't. But like most of the articles where people choose to talk interject road design into mix, it likely wasn't appropriate in that discussion either. It's just that people are more willing to find ways to interject road design as a topic when it's driver/pedestrian.

Meanwhile I don't see the point of criticizing DA's choice of topics.

No surprises there. You also didn't see me write anything criticizing DAl's choice of topics. Nice try though.

by HogWash on Dec 3, 2012 1:14 pm • linkreport

Seems like you understood my point. But if it makes you feel better to act as if you didn't, ok.

I charitably assumed you were you misusing the term "cat calls"? I can't imagine anyone else got your "point" either. So what was it?

by Oboe on Dec 3, 2012 1:44 pm • linkreport

I can't imagine anyone else got your "point" either. So what was it?

Considering the context in which the phrase was used, I have a hard time imagining that you didn't get the point. But, as w/AWITC, if it makes you feel better to "charitably assume" what I meant, then ok. Seems like an invitation to engage in a ridiculous back and forth over a severely non-issue.

I 100% positive that most people here who were even remotely interested in what I had to say, understood exactly what I meant.

Maybe things are just harder for the two of you than the rest of us.

by HogWash on Dec 3, 2012 2:16 pm • linkreport

In context, I guessed that you meant something like calls to pass. I am not sure why you referred to them as cat calls, which is a terms with a distinctive mean in American colloquial English, and which does not apply to calling "on your left" on a bike trail. I did not know if you are actually ignorant of this example of American colloquial English, or if you were trying to take a jab of some kind at cyclists.

I am still not sure what you point you mean to make by asking if there was much discussion of trail design on that thread as there is of road design on this thread. I will not guess, as I do not wish to be told "I never said that, which, AFAICT, would he a correct response to any intelligble point I could try to read into that post.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 3, 2012 2:40 pm • linkreport

"I'm sure he wouldn't"

Have you tried?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 3, 2012 2:42 pm • linkreport

I charitably assumed you were you misusing the term "cat calls"?

- In context, I guessed that you meant something like calls to pass.

The good thing is that everyone is able to see the strategy here. Based on your own posts, you actually DO understand the context but for obvious reasons felt it necessary to stick the knife in just a bit...assuming I didn't have the intellectual capacity required to at least reason what a cat-call was. You felt feigning confusion was a better way to engage.

I did not know if you are actually ignorant of this example of American colloquial English,

So glad am I that my mother raised a child who can actually read and comprehend and know when you're being talked down to. I'll take your dig at my intelligence (or lack thereof) with a grain of salt. Now we're at the point where instead of just saying, "I assume you meant xyz," to sum up your argument, we now attach an additional riders. That is, when it comes to HogWash, let's just assume that he doesn't have the "intelligence" to know the variations w/in the English lexicon. Hence the,

"I was being charitable" and "didn't know if you were ignorant," response from the two of you. Fortunately, I'm accustomed to having my bar set so low. But FWIW, so is Obama.

by HogWash on Dec 3, 2012 3:21 pm • linkreport

well the thing is HW, if I assume you DID know what it means, then I have to wonder WHY you chose that turn of phrase. To make a snide jab at cyclists - to subtly imply that people trying to safely pass a runner on a trail were engaged in sexual harassment, or were doing somethings as objectionable as that? I would have thought assuming that would have been worse than assuming an error about colloquial English - I myself sometimes make errors in the use of colloquial English.

Now, since you dont want anyone else to sum up your argument, could YOU please sum it up?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 3, 2012 3:38 pm • linkreport

"Fortunately, I'm accustomed to having my bar set so low. But FWIW, so is Obama."

Ive never heard President Obama misuse a common english expression like that - so Im not sure what you think the parallel is? Do you mean to imply that I look down on you for reasons of race? I assure you I do not - I judge posts here based on their content. Note I said posts, not posters - I think even judging a post based on past posts by someone using a given argument is incorrect - I want to engage the argument, not the arguer.

However its difficult when I cannot make out what the argument is.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 3, 2012 3:41 pm • linkreport

"using a given handle"

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 3, 2012 3:42 pm • linkreport

So, then the word "cat-call" was used to get a rise out of people?

by drumz on Dec 3, 2012 4:02 pm • linkreport

@drumz,

So, then the word "cat-call" was used to get a rise out of people?

As HW says, "I['m] 100% positive that most people here who were even remotely interested in what I had to say, understood exactly what I meant."

So, yes, I think you hit the nail on the head.

by Oboe on Dec 3, 2012 4:14 pm • linkreport

Argh. The question isn't: "Who/what is at blame." That is a red herring. The question is: "What is in our control that will help minimize these types of accidents." Mr. Alpert is hypothesizing that road design is in our control and that we can do more to minimize accidents. Take away the blame angle and I don't see how that thesis is controversial to anyone who cares. Unfortunately, Alpert used "We're all to blame, " as a rhetorical device but that's really not the point and if you're latching on to it, methinks you doth protest too much.

Urban communities may seem more dangerous in that "bowling pin" sense, but research very clearly shows that accidents per capita are way, way lower in urban areas. And, yeah, wearing ear phones is probably dumb, but our roads need to be safe for EVERY USER. Full stop. Children, elders, people with limited hearing, people with limited sight, and people with other disabilities all have a right to be a road user as a pedestrian and they all have a right to safety. Their right to travel safely sure as hell trumps your right to convenience.

As a bonus, the dumb, inattentive, and lazy pedestrians are protected, too. I know that rubs some peoples' sense of pseudo-Darwinian justice the wrong way, but fuck that noise. Your right to feel smug doesn't trump safety for vulnerable road users either.

by Skwirl on Dec 3, 2012 4:18 pm • linkreport

@Skwirl - yeah!!

by Tina on Dec 3, 2012 4:23 pm • linkreport

So, then the word "cat-call" was used to get a rise out of people?

On this one, color me dumb. This is the first time in my entire life when I've heard of people actually being offended by "cat-call" being used as a phrase to describe the call-out responses of a cyclist.

Despite the liberty people often take w/word choices here, "cat-call" is now an offensive term that should cause readers to take notice.

Wow!
Wow!
Doublewhammywow!

Do you mean to imply that I look down on you for reasons of race?

I can't affirmatively state why Obama critics often set new standards for him that haven't been previously applied. But I do believe he's grown accustomed to the second-guessing and nitpicking over the most insignificant things. For instance, the fact that he vacations.

by HogWash on Dec 3, 2012 4:43 pm • linkreport

On this one, color me dumb. This is the first time in my entire life when I've heard of people actually being offended by "cat-call" being used as a phrase to describe the call-out responses of a cyclist.

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/catcall
1: a loud or raucous cry made especially to express disapproval (as at a sports event)
2: a derisive remark : criticism
Synonyms: boo, Bronx cheer, hiss, hoot, jeer, raspberry, razz, snort

Seriously? Do you know what the word means? Yes I think people might not take it so well if alerting people of their presence is described as jeering at pedestrians in their way.

by MLD on Dec 3, 2012 4:48 pm • linkreport

Um yes, Cat-Calling is generally seen as lewd language directed at women. Webster's is a little more generous just saying that it's derisive or critical language. So I don't see how the accepted and promoted practice of saying "on your left" is that.

But who cares, we're arguing semantics. Please illustrate how one incident that is literally one out of two cases I've ever heard of a fatal bike/ped collision is somehow worse or equal to the systemic dangers we've built in our road networks between cars and pedestrians.

by drumz on Dec 3, 2012 4:50 pm • linkreport

I have never heard of cat call being used to refer to calls by a cyclist relative to passing. Its used to refer to "derisive calls" and occasionally for sexual remarks. Since we all assume you knew that (questioning that you knew the meaning of this expression apparently is offensive, which seems odd to me, since I do not expect anyone to know EVERY colloquial expression - I do not) I must assume you engaged in this odd usage for a reason.

I am not sure what the reason is. Could you enlighten us please?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 3, 2012 4:51 pm • linkreport

Yes I think people might not take it so well if alerting people of their presence is described as jeering at pedestrians in their way.

What people? The people (victim/perpetrator) mentioned in the article? I don't know either of the two so how could they possibly be offended by a phrase I used? I was hoping that no one here was suggesting that THEY were offended by phrase I made which wasn't specifically directed to not one single person. But it seems I was wrong.

But who cares, we're arguing semantics.

Obviously, it's more than semantics to those arguing the case here. Had someone else used the exact phrasing, it would be a much less prominent issue and highly likely that there would be little effort to "educate" another poster on a word as widely used as "cat-call."

Again, I'm accustomed to this...and so is Obama..and Romney for that matter.

AWITC I must assume you engaged in this odd usage for a reason.

But why do you need to know why? You've already acknowledge that you knew what I meant. You already know we were discussing the substance of the previous article. So why do you need to know "why" I chose to use a phrase when knowing it provides you w/little to nothing at all. There is no there..there. Yet, you all are making a case about my ignorance and the misapplication of colloquialisms.

Seriously. What does that clarification of "why" provide you that will move the conversation forward? Not much right? But I'm 100% positive you don't see it as nit-picking. And neither do Obama's critics. They feel justified.

by HogWash on Dec 3, 2012 5:33 pm • linkreport

Get your popcorn people because this one's going into extra innings!

I was hoping that no one here was suggesting that THEY were offended by phrase I made which wasn't specifically directed to not one single person. But it seems I was wrong.

Yes, people were offended because you implied that a cyclist's warning is either a pick-up line or a jeer at the person they're passing.

by MLD on Dec 3, 2012 5:55 pm • linkreport

The relevant / irrelevant ratio of these comments is shockingly low. Is this normal for a GGW comment thread? Browsing through the comments I'm estimating somewhere about <10% relevancy. Commenters "Hogwash" and his/her adversaries are particularly strong contributors to the "irrelevant" side.

It would be great if commenting software could organize user comments by relevancy. For example, an auto-generated navigation tree? Then I could simply navigate to the section on "etymology" for a thrilling back-and-forth about the origins and modern usage of the term "cat-call".

FWIW, my comment is not relevant to the discussion either. But, at this point I'm not watering down the discussion any more than it already is.

by BC on Dec 4, 2012 6:33 am • linkreport

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