Greater Greater Washington

When we lost the War on Pedestrians

Every new bike lane, speed camera, or change in parking requirements becomes an attack in what organizations like AAA decry as a "War on Cars." But in the 1920s, there was a different war over our streets. And pedestrians lost.


Photo by Rich Renomeron on Flickr.

At one time, citizens fought to keep their streets for people. But by the 1920s, cars were appearing in ever-greater numbers on the streets of American cities, and the war on pedestrians began. By 1929, motorists could declare victory, and pedestrians, especially children, paid the price.

In April, design-focused podcast 99% Invisible covered the war on pedestrians, from which motorists emerged victorious. Dubbed "The Modern Moloch," the episode is named after the ancient god of the Ammonites, who received children sacrifices in the name of prosperity. A 1923 editorial cartoon in the St. Louis Star depicts Moloch's altar as the grill of a car. Host Roman Mars leads listeners through the narrative.

Before the car became king, streets were for all users. Pedestrians could just stride right out into the street. Traffic on the street, horses, streetcars, and motor cars moved at very slow speeds.

With a growing mass of automobiles, drivers tried to go faster. By 1923, according to the episode, over 17,000 people were being killed by cars each year. That was up from just 12,000 in 1920, a 47% increase. The outcry was loud. People held parades to memorialize the dead, and cities began to propose laws that would make it difficult to drive.

The issue came to a head in 1923, when Cincinnati voters put an initiative on the ballot to require that every car have a governor which would limit speeds. Car manufacturers realized that if it became too difficult to drive in cities, people wouldn't buy cars and instead choose transit or other modes.

The car lobby responded by taking the approach that cars weren't dangerous, people were. Drivers can be reckless, they said, but then so can pedestrians. However, Americans weren't sold on the idea of a reckless pedestrian. The lobby began to use the word "jaywalking" as a way to coerce pedestrians to cross only at corners, mainly though peer pressure. Los Angeles passed the first anti-jaywalking law in 1924.

In 1929, the first cloverleaf in America opened, and motorists could declare victory over pedestrians. Over the following years, cities began to require parking spaces, streets were widened by highway departments. And pedestrians got further and further marginalized in a nation that droves more and more miles every year.

Last December, an episode called "Built for Speed" brings the story forward to the present. What does the design of our streets tell us about driving?

Mars interviews author Tom Vanderbilt, the author of Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do. He notes that no matter what speed limit signs tell drivers, the context of our roads often encourages us to drive faster. They also tell us not to walk.

The episode talks about street trees as an example of how the changing design philosophy encourages drivers to go faster and encourages pedestrians to not walk. In the early 20th century, communities planted trees between the curb and the sidewalk, giving pedestrians shade and creating a buffer between the sidewalk and car traffic.

But after World War II, traffic engineers began to rethink the design. At high speeds, a tree can be deadly in a crash. So instead, designers moved the trees to the other side of the sidewalk. This, of course, makes pedestrians the buffer. But it also makes the road feel wider, and that encourages drivers to go faster.

In 2001, 42,196 people were killed in motor vehicle collisions in the United States. That same year, a terrorist attack in September killed 2,996 on American soil. The September 11 attacks were a call to arms for Americans, and resulted in billions being spent on the war in Afghanistan.

The Afghanistan war, now America's longest conflict, has resulted in the deaths of 14,449 allied soldiers (2,260 American troops) and 19,013 civilians, a total of 33,462 over 11 years. In the period from 2001 to present, 460,536 people have been killed in motor vehicle collisions in the United States.

The "War on Cars" may have resulted in fewer fatalities. But last year 32,367 people were still killed in car crashes.

The deaths of almost 3,000 people in terrorist attacks was enough to spur an actual war. But when more than 10 times as many people die in crashes every year, it seems that most consider it just the cost of doing business. These deaths are simply sacrifices to our modern Moloch; the people we sacrifice in the name of prosperity.

And whenever a government tries to make our streets safer, especially for vulnerable users like pedestrians and cyclists, the auto lobby says drivers are victims of a "War on Cars."

Cities around the nation are working on projects to reclaim public spaces in our cities for people. Programs like New York City's Public Plaza projects and other traffic calming initiatives are making streets safer for everyone.

That's not a war on cars, that's a war on death and injury. Pedestrians and cyclists can indeed coexist with motorists. But not when they're marginalized and subjected to missing sidewalks, speeding drivers, and other hostile conditions.

Our communities can be prosperous without offering up our most vulnerable road users as sacrifices. But it requires a rethinking of what our roads are built for. So long as "speed" is the answer, pedestrians and cyclists will pay the price. So will many unfortunate motorists.

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Matt Johnson has lived in the Washington area since 2007. He has a Master's in Planning from the University of Maryland and a BS in Public Policy from Georgia Tech. He lives in Greenbelt. Hes a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. He is a contract employee of the Montgomery County Planning Department. His views are his own and do not represent the opinion of his employer. 

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Great article Matt. Thanks!

by Tina Jones on Aug 28, 2013 12:53 pm • linkreport

Thanks for writing this, Matt.

"In the period from 2001 to present, 460,536 people have been killed in motor vehicle collisions in the United States."

Astonishing.

by Nick on Aug 28, 2013 1:00 pm • linkreport

To a visitor from outer space, suburban road designs in our area would seem to imply that road and traffic engineers get bonuses for pedestrians prevented (one way or another). They don't, do they?

by Greenbelt on Aug 28, 2013 1:02 pm • linkreport

Random question: Why do people use the antiquated term "motorists" when they write about cars. What's wrong with the word "drivers"?

by Theo16 on Aug 28, 2013 1:06 pm • linkreport

I think this piece is unnecessarily one-sided. Seems to me we have come to a reasonable compromise where, on the one side, drivers are permitted to drive as fast as they like on urban roads, and on the other, children are taught that they can be killed at any time unless they remain hyper-vigilant.

In all seriousness though, good article.

by oboe on Aug 28, 2013 1:08 pm • linkreport

@Theo16:
Because drivers still use the antiquated "motor" technology.

But seriously, it's not antiquated. And when writing a post, it's good to use a variety of words. That's the beauty of English! 800,000 words and counting.

by Matt Johnson on Aug 28, 2013 1:12 pm • linkreport

@Theo16 -I think because "motorist" excludes drivers of non-motorized forms of transportation and other definitions for "driver" that don't involve transportation; "motorist" is more precise than "driver".

by Tina Jones on Aug 28, 2013 1:12 pm • linkreport

Thank you Matt. This point can not be made forcefully enough, and you drive it home with wonderful cold statistics.

by Jasper on Aug 28, 2013 1:16 pm • linkreport

Good article. Tobacco related deaths kill 10 times as many as auto collisions, with nearly none of the positive economic and sociocultural benefits that automobile travel provides. Talk about losing a war!

by Scoot on Aug 28, 2013 1:28 pm • linkreport

Are you seriously suggesting transportation shouldn't be about getting somewhere quickly? What should it be about? Personal amusement?

by J.D. Hammond on Aug 28, 2013 1:31 pm • linkreport

But it requires a rethinking of what our roads are built for. So long as "speed" is the answer, pedestrians and cyclists will pay the price.

Are you seriously suggesting transportation shouldn't be about getting somewhere quickly? What should it be about? Personal amusement?

by J.D. Hammond on Aug 28, 2013 1:32 pm • linkreport

It's not the destination, it's the voyage.

by Thayer-D on Aug 28, 2013 1:35 pm • linkreport

@J.D. Hammond:
Are you seriously suggesting transportation shouldn't be about getting somewhere quickly? What should it be about? Personal amusement?
No. I'm suggesting that if the price of speed is the sacrifice of 30,000 people each year, that the price is too high.

by Matt Johnson on Aug 28, 2013 1:36 pm • linkreport

Well, its about getting somewhere quickly via one mode of transportation. If speeding up just cars comes at the expense of all other modes then I'm not sure that's equitable. Not everyone can or is willing to drive somewhere.

Meanwhile, adding crosswalks, bike lanes, signal priority, light rail tracks speeds up transportation for several different modes of transportation. And when they've done studies on travel times they've often found negligible impacts for autos as well.

by drumz on Aug 28, 2013 1:39 pm • linkreport

Somehow I don't think paramedics would be heartened by platitudes about the importance of "the voyage", if we're really talking about the value of human lives. Designing streets to be safe and useful environments is one thing; it's another to say that designing for fast travel is inherently wrong.

by J.D. Hammond on Aug 28, 2013 1:40 pm • linkreport

Scoot,

Yet smoking/tobacco usage rates have plummeted since we've introduced things like the surgeon general's warning and all sorts of other things to curb tobacco use.

by drumz on Aug 28, 2013 1:41 pm • linkreport

Guns don't kill people, people kill people.
Alcohol dosen't get you drunk, you get yourself drunk.
Speed doesn't kill pedestrians, unless your going over 35 mph.

by Thayer-D on Aug 28, 2013 1:44 pm • linkreport

Somehow I don't think paramedics would be heartened by platitudes about the importance of "the voyage", if we're really talking about the value of human lives. Designing streets to be safe and useful environments is one thing; it's another to say that designing for fast travel is inherently wrong.

Sure, but this is an oversimplification. Start by enforcing a 20 mph city-wide speed limit on all residential streets with zero "cushion". This will have exactly zero practical effect on the "quickness" of travel.

I'm sure that will be completely non-controversial.

by oboe on Aug 28, 2013 1:45 pm • linkreport

Designing streets to be safe and useful environments is one thing; it's another to say that designing for fast travel is inherently wrong.

And where did Matt argue that fast travel is inherently wrong?

To the contrary, the point is a simple one: designing a safe street (not a safe road or a safe highway, but a street) cannot put fast car travel above other priorities and remain safe for pedestrians. This is a geometric truth more than anything else.

by Alex B. on Aug 28, 2013 1:46 pm • linkreport

@JD Hammond -the premise is not that "fast" travel is the problem. E.g., HSR is not responsible for 10's of thousands of fatalities anywhere HRS is found. it's the disproportionate emphasis of the single occupancy automobile (SOV) in transportation policy and planning and the subsequent environment built to cater to the SOV at the near exclusion of all other modes and the extreme peril to any non-motorists attempting to get somewhere in that environment.

by Tina on Aug 28, 2013 1:48 pm • linkreport

Nonsense, so long as pedestrians of all ages--from 3 to 100--maintain a state of hyper-vigilance at all times, they'll be fine.

Of course, that's impossible to do, which is why so many suburban communities do things like banning children from walking or driving to school.

by oboe on Aug 28, 2013 1:51 pm • linkreport

@J.D. Hammond:
I'm not against speed. The "Built For Speed" episode of 99% Invisible does an excellent job of pointing out that freeways aren't the problem. When engineers export the freeway design to surface streets, it creates the problem.

You want to drive 85mph on I-90 in Montana? Go for it.

But when I have to cross a right turn ramp designed for cars going 55 mph (in a 45 mph zone), there's something wrong with the design.

by Matt Johnson on Aug 28, 2013 1:53 pm • linkreport

"Designing streets to be safe and useful environments is one thing; it's another to say that designing for fast travel is inherently wrong. "

If I am trying to walk somewhere, and have to change my route to avoid a dangerous crossing, or a dangerous street, then the street design "for speed" has in fact slowed my travel. So its fine to design for speed, and for safety. Its just that in places where enabling walking (and even biking) is important, their need to be compromises among the needs of different modes.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 28, 2013 1:59 pm • linkreport

@Drumz

Motor vehicle related deaths have plummeted as well. They are down 70% from 1976.

@Matt

According to the USDOT, typically about 30% of vehicle-related deaths are categorized as speeding-related. Of those, around 40% occur in urban areas.

by Scoot on Aug 28, 2013 2:03 pm • linkreport

Scoot,

Great. Lets keep going on both counts. We've gotten very good at making cars safer but not so great at making streets safer (for people not already in a vehicle).

by drumz on Aug 28, 2013 2:08 pm • linkreport

"Tobacco related deaths kill 10 times as many as auto collisions, with nearly none of the positive economic and sociocultural benefits that automobile travel provides. Talk about losing a war! "

I'm not sure what that has to do with the matter at hand.

Its certainly good that auto collision deaths (note we are talking only about collisions, not emissions related health issues) are far lower than tobacco related deaths. Especially since collision related deaths have a different age profile than say lung cancer deaths do, that would be a national catastrophe.

Anyway, the majority of auto collision deaths are to drivers and auto passengers.

OTOH the costs of pedestrian fatalities are not just the fatalities (and non fatal injuries) themselves, but the walking trips people WOULD take, that they are deterred from taking, as well as the costs to walkers from current conditions - in terms of extra time due to changed routes, in terms of discomfort from unsafe walking conditions, etc.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 28, 2013 2:09 pm • linkreport

the overwhelming majority of incidents where people are getting killed in car crashes are *not* the city streets that were previously the domain of pedestrians (and horses)

You're playing the same shell game that other contributors accused Allstate of doing.

by Kolohe on Aug 28, 2013 2:10 pm • linkreport

"the overwhelming majority of incidents where people are getting killed in car crashes are *not* the city streets that were previously the domain of pedestrians (and horses) "

well the places where people are in most danger are certainly not the limited access highways, which are safer for drivers and where there are no pedestrians.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 28, 2013 2:15 pm • linkreport

@Scoot:

According to the USDOT, typically about 30% of vehicle-related deaths are categorized as speeding-related. Of those, around 40% occur in urban areas.

Of course, in the other 40% of cases "speed was not a factor":

http://www.wjla.com/articles/2013/07/jahbari-jawon-howe-dies-after-being-hit-by-suv-91493.html

by oboe on Aug 28, 2013 2:15 pm • linkreport

Kolohe,

Not quite. A majority of deaths coming from highways crashes doesn't mean that there isn't a problem on urban streets where you're going to find pedestrians (and thus pedestrian collisions). Moreover, it still backs up the fact that speed kills.

by drumz on Aug 28, 2013 2:17 pm • linkreport

But when I have to cross a right turn ramp designed for cars going 55 mph (in a 45 mph zone), there's something wrong with the design.

You mean like the "bike" rte and sidewalk on Irving St NW, N of Washington Hospital Center that has marked crossings across interstate style ramps that are set back so speeding motorists can't see them until its too late for them to brake - and which are set back so that if a motorist does by some miracle stop for a bicyclist or walker the car of the stopped motorist won't interfere with the 'through-put" on Irving St- and which force a non-motorized traveler on the Rte to make extremely inefficient hair pin turns in order to cross the ramps? Ddot, I hate u for this "bike" Rte. Shame on you.

by Tina on Aug 28, 2013 2:18 pm • linkreport

@Scoot:

Please note: Speed != Speeding.

If a street is designed for 45 mph and it's in an urban area with pedestrians, it doesn't matter if drivers are speeding or not. It's already hostile to pedestrians. Because it's designed for speed.

by Matt Johnson on Aug 28, 2013 2:25 pm • linkreport

We've gotten very good at making cars safer but not so great at making streets safer (for people not already in a vehicle).

Pedestrian deaths are also down 40% since 1976. Riding in a car still carries a huge risk of injury. Not as risky as riding a motorcycle, but far riskier than in a bus, train, or plane.

by Scoot on Aug 28, 2013 2:26 pm • linkreport

I don't think divisive articles like this are constructive. Drivers, cyclists, walkers, and transit-riders are all part of the same commuting brotherhood, there's no need to choose sides. Everyone just wants to get where he/she's going, quickly and safely.

Obviously more must be done to reduce auto accidents, for the benefit of all commuters. We should look to other countries such as the UK, Japan, and Germany that have much lower fatality rates (less then 50% of the U.S. rate) For one thing, it is probably far too easy to get a driver's license in the U.S., and the testing should become more regular and stringent.

by Chris S. on Aug 28, 2013 2:30 pm • linkreport

"It's already hostile to pedestrians" This should be the hypocratic oath for planners. Science has shown us how we evolved to walk, not drive. Definatly keep roads and cars and buses and whatever, but we are made for walking, and not just becasue of being upright, but our psychology, sociology, and physical health. I would even go so far as to say you can't have a proper democracy without free and accesible public spaces for people.

by Thayer-D on Aug 28, 2013 2:31 pm • linkreport

@Matt

Please note: Speed != Speeding.

Your article said:

"But not when they're marginalized and subjected to missing sidewalks, speeding drivers, and other hostile conditions."

by Scoot on Aug 28, 2013 2:33 pm • linkreport

"I don't think divisive articles like this are constructive. Drivers, cyclists, walkers, and transit-riders are all part of the same commuting brotherhood, there's no need to choose sides. Everyone just wants to get where he/she's going, quickly and safely. "

this article isn't about drivers, its about infrastructure. I drive, but I have no problem with complete streets designed to calm traffic and improve ped conditions.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 28, 2013 2:36 pm • linkreport

@Scoot:
I was using speeding in the sense of drivers moving at a high rate of speed, not violating the speed limit. However, drivers who are actually violating the speed limit are also a hostile condition that pedestrians have to deal with.

The point about this post is that the INFRASTRUCTURE is designed all wrong. It is designed to facilitate drivers moving at speeds that are (1) deadly to pedestrians, (2) hostile to any kind of street life, and (3) said speeds being used as an excuse for engineers to not include pedestrian accommodations.

A pedestrian hit at 20 mph has a very good chance of surviving. A pedestrian hit at 40 mph will likely die. "Speed" is almost always a factor. "Speeding" (breaking the law in this case) isn't.

When the police use phrases like "speed was not a factor" they mean, "the driver was not violating the speed limit". But generally speaking, if the driver had been going slower, the person they struck (a) might not have been struck and (b) probably would have survived.

by Matt Johnson on Aug 28, 2013 2:43 pm • linkreport

Scoot,

Great again. Let's continue and especially point out to our local govt's and DOTs that streets need to be designed for all users in mind. The problems is by no means eliminated, therefore we should continue to work and point out that there is no war on cars.

by drumz on Aug 28, 2013 2:43 pm • linkreport

@Scoot- pedestrian fatalities are disproportionately represented, over-represented among traffic related fatalities. I.e., the proportion of pedestrians killed by motor vehicles is greater than the proportion of pedestrian travelers.

by Tina on Aug 28, 2013 2:44 pm • linkreport

@Scoot- the decrease in pedestrian fatalities since 1976 may be explained by the documented overall decrease in the number and proportion of pedestrians since 1976. Furthermore there was an increase in pedestrian deaths from 2009 to 2011 while concurrently there were fewer vehicle miles traveled and motorist fatalities decreased. If you're trying to present data that traveling by foot is just as dangerous/safe as by car you will not find the data to support it in the US.

by Tina on Aug 28, 2013 2:55 pm • linkreport

@Matt

The conventional definition of "speeding" refers to exceeding the limit allowed by law.

@Tina

That is true. Pedestrians represent 13% of traffic related deaths and 10% of road users. I am not trying to present data that traveling by foot is just as dangerous/safe as by car.

by Scoot on Aug 28, 2013 3:01 pm • linkreport

@Scoot- furthermore, between 1999 and 2006 pedestrian crash probability did not significantly change yet the pedestrian fatality probability increased more than one third – from 5.3% in 1999 to 7.1% in 2006. It increased steadily 1999-2006.

If you are not trying to present data that traveling by foot is just as dangerous/safe as by car, what idea or information are you trying to communicate?

by Tina on Aug 28, 2013 3:08 pm • linkreport

@ AWalkerInTheCity: "this article isn't about drivers, its about infrastructure."

Not so sure about that, considering statements such as:

"In 1929, the first cloverleaf in America opened, and motorists could declare victory over pedestrians"

Certainly sounds like an effort to paint an "us vs. them" picture to me. Although since motorists are also pedestrians and vice versa, I guess it's a case of "us" declaring victory over ourselves.

by Chris S. on Aug 28, 2013 3:19 pm • linkreport

I assume that "pedestrian fatality probability" refers to the probability of a fatality in the event of a crash. It did increase.

But as you said, the probability of a crash itself did not significantly change. Actually it declined.

I agree with a few others that the article seems to focus on drivers. Perhaps the article's accompanying photo should be changed to something other than a "thank you for not driving" sticker if the article is not meant to be about drivers or is not meant to pit drivers against other road users.

by Scoot on Aug 28, 2013 3:24 pm • linkreport

yes, the focous of that is on the cloverleaf, not on motorist behavior.

Obviously many motorists would not consider that a victory. This is simply shorthand, a response to the "war on cars" rhetoric.

I do not think it necessary for an author to go over everything with a fine tooth comb to remove anything that, taken out of context, might appear hostile.

I think a fair reading of this article makes it clear that its about infrastructure, and the 'bad guys' if there are any, are those who lobbied for a certain approach to infrastructure.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 28, 2013 3:25 pm • linkreport

here's some more data;

-Each year 6,000 pedestrians are killed and 90,000 are injured. One in five is a child.

-You are 36 times more likely to be killed walking than driving a car.

-You are 300 times more likely to be killed walking than flying.

-Less than 6% of Americans’ trips are on foot, yet 13% of all traffic deaths involve pedestrians.

-For every pedestrian killed by a car, at least 14 more are injured.

-Almost 60% of pedestrian deaths occur in places where no crosswalk is available.

-Being hit and killed by a car is now the second leading cause of fatal injury and the fourth leading cause of hospitalized injury for California children aged 5-12.

-Pedestrian fatalities have declined steadily over the last 20 years, mainly because US residents increasingly live in suburbs, where residents walk far less.

http://americawalks.org/resources/walking-facts/

by Tina on Aug 28, 2013 3:31 pm • linkreport

Please stop with the tired trope of false equivalence between terrorism and motor vehicle deaths. The deaths on 9/11 were 100% intentional and the terrorists' actions served no other purpose than violence. Motor vehicle deaths, while certainly too numerous, occur as the result of an activity with social and economic benefits. We tolerate some degree of danger from motor vehicles because their benefits -- speed, capacity for work -- are closely related to their risks. We don't tolerate terrorism because there is no associated benefit.

by jimble on Aug 28, 2013 3:32 pm • linkreport

The article is meant to put those who value ease of driving over the needs of other users (and thus resort to a cry of "war on cars" everytime a suggestion is even made) vs those of us who would like safer streets, both through our infrastructure and driver behavior.

There is obviously a lot of work to be done if it still needs to be explained that this still isn't about ALL drivers or banning cars or whatever.

by drumz on Aug 28, 2013 3:37 pm • linkreport

the probability of a crash itself did not significantly change. Actually it declined.

It declined b/c fewer people are walking, not b/c walking got safer. Walking got more dangerous.

by Tina on Aug 28, 2013 3:39 pm • linkreport

"Perhaps the article's accompanying photo should be changed to something other than a "thank you for not driving" sticker if the article is not meant to be about drivers or is not meant to pit drivers against other road users."

Drivers - our vehicle frames may be strong, but our skins are still thin.

by RandPaul on Aug 28, 2013 3:46 pm • linkreport

@drumz, +1

by Tina on Aug 28, 2013 3:46 pm • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity "I do not think it necessary for an author to go over everything with a fine tooth comb to remove anything that, taken out of context, might appear hostile."

I don't think a fine tooth comb is needed. There is not much nuance involved in the article's lone image, which explicitly targets drivers.

by Chris S. on Aug 28, 2013 3:51 pm • linkreport

@Chris S.
In that case, you can rest assured. I did not pick the image. The editor did. I submitted the post without an image.

by Matt Johnson on Aug 28, 2013 4:01 pm • linkreport

geez. thin skin indeed.

by Tina on Aug 28, 2013 4:07 pm • linkreport

When the police use phrases like "speed was not a factor" they mean, "the driver was not violating the speed limit".

I'm not even sure that's the case. The translation is something more along the lines of "it cannot be legally proven that they driver was egregiously violating the speed limit."

Look at the picture on that WJLA story again.

That damage was caused by a SUV striking a 9 year old child on a bicycle in a residential cul-de-sac. I've seen worse damage in high speed vehicle/vehicle collisions. But of course, "speed was not a factor".

These attitudes that at one time were so controversial in our urban and residential areas have become so ingrained over time that they hardly merit a second-thought.

@Tina
Pedestrian fatalities have declined steadily over the last 20 years, mainly because US residents increasingly live in suburbs, where residents walk far less.

Hard to believe that after a couple of generations of teaching kids that cars are in implacable force of nature (and that the children bear the sole responsibility for not being killed by them) that Americans are walking less.

by oboe on Aug 28, 2013 4:10 pm • linkreport

There is not much nuance involved in the article's lone image, which explicitly targets drivers.

I'm a driver and I don't feel targeted in the least.

by oboe on Aug 28, 2013 4:11 pm • linkreport

@oboe

Start by enforcing a 20 mph city-wide speed limit on all residential streets with zero "cushion". This will have exactly zero practical effect on the "quickness" of travel.

I'm sure that will be completely non-controversial.

This may work in the suburbs, but if one of the end goals of urbanism is that there really isn't such a thing as a "residential street" - everything is mixed use and part of a complete street grid that diffuses traffic across all paths, rather than concentrating it onto a small number of wide arterials - then that isn't going to work unless you're prepared to institute a 20 mph speed limit across the entire urban area.

by Dizzy on Aug 28, 2013 4:18 pm • linkreport

Also, the fatality number cited is a little misleading, as it is for all crash-related deaths, instead of the pedestrian fatalities that the article focuses on. According to NHTSA data, in 2011 4,432 pedestrians were killed in car crashes. That is up 3% from 2010, but down 16% from the 1997 total of 5,321. Hopefully the downward trend resumed in 2012.

by Chris S. on Aug 28, 2013 4:23 pm • linkreport

" but if one of the end goals of urbanism is that there really isn't such a thing as a "residential street" - everything is mixed use "

Im not really sure that is one of the end goals. Some folks want form based codes everywhere - I am fine with some residential only neighborhoods (and btw, I don't think one corner store every few blocks really makes a neighborhood "mixed use" in any meaningful way)

Second, even if it is an end goal, its far from reality in any jurisdiction in the metro area.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 28, 2013 4:25 pm • linkreport

It declined b/c fewer people are walking, not b/c walking got safer. Walking got more dangerous.

The data does not show that walking got more dangerous. It also does not show that it has gotten safer.

What is the data?

According to the CDC, pedestrian trips make up 10.5% of all trips (not sure where the 6% figure you cited is from).

According to the NHSTA, between 1995 and 2010 an average of about 4700 pedestrians were killed and about 70,000 were injured (not sure where the 6000 and 90,000 figures you cited are from; the injury rate has not been above 90,000 since 1990).

Has walking gotten safer?

In a review of National Household Travel Surveys from 2001 to 2009, the average American made 17 more walking trips in 2009 than in 2001, covering 9 more miles per year. Trips per capita, minutes per capita and miles per capita all increased.

Over the same period, data from the NHSTA found that pedestrian crashes fell 10% between 2001 and 2010.

This is promising, though not enough to conclude that walking became safer.

Has walking gotten more dangerous?

The Nationwide Personal Transportion Survey found that between 1977 and 1995, the walk share of trips decreased about 40% (from 9.3% to 5.4%) while the number of pedestrian fatalities decreased by 28%.

What this data seems to indicate is that between 1977 and 1995, the number of fatalities did not decrease as much as the mode share.

While discouraging, this is not enough to conclude that walking became more dangerous.

What are the complicating factors?

How many people walk, how far they walk, how often they walk, where they walk, changes in facilities, infrastructure, behavior, law enforcement and education all influence walking safety. The data we have simply does not and cannot correct for all those factors.

by Scoot on Aug 28, 2013 4:26 pm • linkreport

me too. I am a driver and a car owner and I don't feel targeted by this article.

i welcome this article.

by Tina on Aug 28, 2013 4:26 pm • linkreport

The automobile era is coming to a close. Cars aren't going away, just that they won't be the only force on the road in the future. Some people will continue to drive for various reasons (like to haul stuff), but more and more will rely on delivery services and car sharing rather than own their own car.

The future will be multi-modal transportation. Roads will be redesigned to accommodate everyone in a safe manner. I also think driver less cars will make their way out of the laboratory.

Motorcycles and scooters will also rise in prominence for travel that is more fuel efficient than a car but not performed well with a bicycle.

by brookland_rez on Aug 28, 2013 4:28 pm • linkreport

@Scoot- I interpret a 3 fold increase in risk of fatality in the event of a crash as crashes getting more dangerous.

the data i cited is from NHTSA and americawalks.org.

I'll ask again, what idea or information are you trying to communicate?

I welcome this article and the spotlight it places on the needless increased and disproportionate risk one takes while walking and biking resulting from transportation policies and infrastructure focused singularly on SOV, especially in densely populated areas where pedestrians are expected.

by Tina on Aug 28, 2013 4:40 pm • linkreport

@AWITC

Yea, I'm not sure either, hence the pregnant "if." But it does raise the question of what constitutes a "residential street." If you have thousands of people living in apartment buildings along Connecticut Avenue, is it a residential street?

Anyway, even if the article strikes a harsh tone, that's probably something that's necessary to shake people out of their passive acceptance of a fundamentally unsafe built environment. Built, intentionally, by us.

Tricky captcha: "If you are at the Metro Center Metrorail station and head outbound on the Red Line, what is the next station you will reach?"

Don't they chain from Metro Center, so it's outbound in either direction?

by Dizzy on Aug 28, 2013 4:50 pm • linkreport

"@AWITC
Yea, I'm not sure either, hence the pregnant "if." But it does raise the question of what constitutes a "residential street." If you have thousands of people living in apartment buildings along Connecticut Avenue, is it a residential street?"

I thought it was clear what sort of streets Oboe was referring to.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 28, 2013 4:52 pm • linkreport

I interpret a 3 fold increase in risk of fatality in the event of a crash as crashes getting more dangerous.

I assume that "3-fold" is a typo because in a previous comment you said it increased from 5.3% to 7.1%, which would be 30% -- not 3-fold.

It is possible that crashes are getting more dangerous, though your original idea was that walking became more dangerous. If the probability of a crash (resulting in a fatality or not) is decreasing then that could be a sign that walking is becoming safer.

Of course, by itself that's not enough to conclude that walking is safer.

Let's take an analogy with cycling. In the District, the number of cyclist-vehicle collisions has increased. Using your train of thought, one might conclude that cycling has gotten more dangerous. Of course this conclusion does not consider that there are a lot more cyclists.

by Scoot on Aug 28, 2013 4:53 pm • linkreport

Anyway, it is not clear what the proposal is here to reduce traffic fatalities. Since there is much negativity about traffic moving quickly, I guess the idea is to lower speed limits. But the UK and Germany both have less than half as many traffic fatalities per 100,000 cars as the U.S., and their urban speed limits I understand are set at 30 MPH. So it seems there must be other potent measures for increasing road safety for all.

by Chris S. on Aug 28, 2013 4:56 pm • linkreport

americawalks said over the last 20 years. I guess (since their page seems to have been done in 2010) between 1990 and 2000.

Its possible that walking decreased in the 90s, only to rebound in the 2000s. Unfortunately that bullet point on their site is not sourced.

I would suggest that quibbling over that point, either way, does not advance the discussion.

We do need better data, for sure.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 28, 2013 5:04 pm • linkreport

"Anyway, it is not clear what the proposal is here to reduce traffic fatalities."

design streets for all modes. Include buffers (like trees) between peds and motorists. Add crosswalks, and crosswalk protections. add public plazas and similar traffic calming initiatives.

I think its clear thats what the article is calling for, since it explicitly mentions those things.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 28, 2013 5:06 pm • linkreport

@AWITC

Yea, basically. It is a particularly interesting topic to me, though, because I see it as being a potential real point of tension in stated urbanist goals (e.g. if you believe that residential-only zoning is bad and should be done away with, then you can't really argue that streets in that area should be particularly slow because of that zoning).

Enforcement in the areas oboe is talking about is particularly difficult: too many of them to police effectively, unlike arterials, and the people who live on them (in many cases) would like to reserve the right to speed when they're in a hurry, because of course they would never run over someone's kid...

by Dizzy on Aug 28, 2013 5:08 pm • linkreport

The solution is not to eliminate cars, but to improve the technology. Ironically, this means investing more in cars. This happens with many technologies as they are introduced, disrupt the old technologies, and mature. When electricity first became mainstream electrical fires were rampant and many thought it was too dangerous to continue. Instead we invested in making electricity safer. Cars were a major change, so that maturing step takes some time.

Cars continue to get safer and safer. See http://www.saferoads.org/federal/2004/TrafficFatalities1899-2003.pdf for a history of traffic related deaths to see that the fatality rate is dropping at a very solid rate. More recently the fatality rate is even better: http://www.nhtsa.gov/PR/NHTSA-05-11.

On the horizon there are many technologies that will further reduce the risks driving presents. Electric cars are lighter and allow more of the car's weight to be focused on safety (http://www.teslamotors.com/about/press/releases/tesla-model-s-achieves-best-safety-rating-any-car-ever-tested). Beyond that self-driving cars will eliminate much of the human error that causes most accidents. Reliable and affordable private transit will also allow for more reliance on public transit.

by Joshua Brown on Aug 28, 2013 5:18 pm • linkreport

"@AWITC
Yea, basically. It is a particularly interesting topic to me, though, because I see it as being a potential real point of tension in stated urbanist goals (e.g. if you believe that residential-only zoning is bad and should be done away with, then you can't really argue that streets in that area should be particularly slow because of that zoning)."

thats a charictiture of urbanist goals. Once again, no one wants every TH neighborhood in DC (or every SFH neighborhood in the burbs) rebuilt as 10 story mixed use - or very few urbanists do, at any rate.

If we had lenient laws on say corner stores in TH areas, that wouldnt make them significantly different than they are now. Ive lived in areas in Baltimore made up or THs with corner stores - even corner bars. No one would confuse those streets with an arterial. And of course corner stores are hardly the sina qua non of urbanism.

This point of tension doesnt really exist. Its a red herring.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 28, 2013 5:19 pm • linkreport

Chris,

It's not so much that we need to figure out a specific proposal to improve safety. We have plenty, it's just that when any one of them is proposed (complete streets, tougher penalties for law breaking, cameras, etc.) it almost immediately brings out a chorus of "war on cars!" As if any reform is tantamount to banning driving.

by drumz on Aug 28, 2013 5:41 pm • linkreport

@AWITC

Advocating for away with single-use zoning, which means that there are no more "residential areas" as a legal category, is not the same thing as advocating for bulldozing Spring Valley and Dupont and replacing them with a thousand Cookie Cutter by Archstone buildings. I have heard plenty of people here argue for the former; Matt Yglesias is probably the only person I know of who would advocate the latter.

by Dizzy on Aug 28, 2013 5:46 pm • linkreport

(complete streets, tougher penalties for law breaking, cameras, etc.) it almost immediately brings out a chorus of "war on cars!" As if any reform is tantamount to banning driving.

Well, reform in DC is happening, and quickly. Much of the public does not see it as banning cars, but rather, is supportive of these initiatives. A small vocal minority of activists is attempting to dominate the conversation, but they're not going a very good job of it.

by Scoot on Aug 28, 2013 5:56 pm • linkreport

@Chris S. , Anyway, it is not clear what the proposal is here to reduce traffic fatalities.

I think its very clear what the proposal is to reduce traffic fatalities: change the infrastructure and attending policies.(i.e. driver education, enforcement, legislation)

@ Scoot-yes oops yes 3x error. The increase in probability over time was 35% (not 30; 7.1-5.3/5.3=.35, thus probability increased by 35%). the increase was steady over time. Again, I interpret an increase in probability of fatality given a crash without change in probability of crash as an increase in the dangerousness of walking; the chance of surviving a crash decreased.

Let's take an analogy with cycling. In the District, the number of cyclist-vehicle collisions has increased. Using your train of thought, one might conclude that cycling has gotten more dangerous. Of course this conclusion does not consider that there are a lot more cyclists.

this is not an apt analogy at all.

This stat, on probability of a fatality given a crash, can stand w/o knowing total no. of peds or mode share of peds. One needs to know how many crashes involved peds and how many were fatal.

You have stated you don't interpret a steady increase in probability of fatality given a crash accompanied by unchanged probability of crash as an indication the environment for walking is more dangerous. I do. (yes one needs to know mode share of peds to calculate probability of a crash, but not to calculate probability of fatality given a crash)-

You haven't answered my question: what idea or information are you trying to communicate?

by Tina on Aug 28, 2013 6:05 pm • linkreport

@ drumz "It's not so much that we need to figure out a specific proposal to improve safety. We have plenty, it's just that when any one of them is proposed (complete streets, tougher penalties for law breaking, cameras, etc.) it almost immediately brings out a chorus of "war on cars!" As if any reform is tantamount to banning driving."

Sure, and at the same time, designing infrastructure to get pedestrians, drivers, cyclists, and transit-riders to their destinations as efficiently and quickly as possible need not be tantamount to a war on safety.

by Chris S. on Aug 28, 2013 6:06 pm • linkreport

Scoot,

I'd agree, the tide in DC seems to have turned, then again you have proposals like the Potomac ave. traffic oval not to mention that DC is but one jurisdiction among many as well. Plenty of challenges in the suburbs.

Chris s.,

You're right. We should be planning for ll modes. Matt's point is that most places haven't been and been planning more or less exclusively for the automobile.

by drumz on Aug 28, 2013 6:25 pm • linkreport

Again, I interpret an increase in probability of fatality given a crash without change in probability of crash as an increase in the dangerousness of walking; the chance of surviving a crash decreased.

What about the chance of actually getting into a crash? If that is falling, what would you conclude?

by Scoot on Aug 28, 2013 6:35 pm • linkreport

the probability of a ped crash was unchanged.

by Tina on Aug 28, 2013 6:40 pm • linkreport

@ Scoot "What about the chance of actually getting into a crash? If that is falling, what would you conclude?"

According to NHTSA data, pedestrians were involved in 69,000 traffic crashes in 2011. That number is up slightly from 67,537 in 2006, but down substantially from 92,719 in 1999. Hopefully this decade will see another large overall drop.

by Chris S. on Aug 28, 2013 7:13 pm • linkreport

Hopefully this decade will see another large overall drop.

If a drop in total fatalities is not also accompanied by a non-change or increase in total number of trips taken by walking and/or number of people walking regularly and/or mode share of walking it doesn't indicate increased safety; it just reflects that fewer people walk thus fewer people are killed while walking.

The fact that NHTSA doesn't have readily available data over time on mode share, rate and probability of ped crash death over time but pages and pages of it for motor vehicle occupants is indicative of the problem that this post spot-lights.

by Tina on Aug 28, 2013 7:35 pm • linkreport

@ jimble:Please stop with the tired trope of false equivalence between terrorism and motor vehicle deaths.

Please motivate why it is a false equivalency.

The deaths on 9/11 were 100% intentional and the terrorists' actions served no other purpose than violence.

Does it matter to a dead person if her death was intentional or accidental? Is a death accidental when a driver was speeding and texting? Do the family and friends care how someone died?

Motor vehicle deaths, while certainly too numerous, occur as the result of an activity with social and economic benefits.

And the trillion or two that we've spent since 9/11 killing more people have no social and economic benefits? Many, many people have massively benefited from 9/11. Al-Qaeda. Rudy Giulliani. Defense contractors. Many people have not benefited from the aftermath of 9/11. Bin Laden ended up as fish food. Saddam hung. The victims. The 'collatoral damage'. Family and friends of all fighting forces.

It's all how you look at it.

by Jasper on Aug 28, 2013 10:32 pm • linkreport

"designing infrastructure to get pedestrians, drivers, cyclists, and transit-riders to their destinations as efficiently and quickly as possible need not be tantamount to a war on safety."

This is the problem with strictly relying on data. It makes you think there is no other interpretation... since you have the data. Yet there is all kinds of data, and it isn't all as easy to quantify. Take the efficiency of monoculture industrial agriculture. Who could argue with the yield data? Yet where is the data which accounts for the degredation of the land, or the threat to bacteria with only one kind of crop? How about the data on pesticides effect on the bee population, or waterways and human health? This isn't meant to diminish the value of cars per hour or speed of travel, but one has to remember that everything functioned quite well at lower speeds. Just becasue a car can go 200mph dosen't mean that it should.

Who wouldn't want to get people moving as "efficiently and quickly" as possible? But what if there was something worth looking at while you where moving? And how much efficiency would you be willing to sacrifice to save a kid on a bike? The data on lives lost between terrorism vs. car deaths vs. asthma can all be bewildering until that data becomes someone you love. There's no war on cars or on safety, there's only making the best decisions for the most people considering all the facts. And the fact that people fare better in the natural world moving at the speed they where designed to move seems to be indesputable.

In Europe after WWII, where the manufacturing base was decimated, you didn't have the unholy alliance between industry and government that Eisenhower warned against. Thus if you look at many a highway approach to european cities, you'll find that most times they circumvent the town entirely and are tamed at the approach, unlike here where engineers calcutated that the most efficient way to move people in and out of a city was to destroy the city to accomodate the automobile. Thanks to the (ironically) inefficiency of that program, cities are returning to their function of being recepticals of civitas, which can only be achieved by giving the pedestrian room to interact. Factor in all the data on behavior, psychology, and health, and then tell me how efficient automobile infrastructure is.

by Thayer-D on Aug 29, 2013 8:26 am • linkreport

The deaths on 9/11 were 100% intentional and the terrorists' actions served no other purpose than violence.

This is untrue, btw.

The terrorists actions served to embroil the US in two catastrophic foreign wars, and caused the US to implement a huge number of expensive, time-consuming, and ultimately ineffective "security" measures. In all, the terrorists achieved most of their desired aims.

It may make us feel nice to think "terrorists' actions [serve] no other purpose than violence" but it's a pleasant fiction.

by oboe on Aug 29, 2013 9:10 am • linkreport

"Advocating for away with single-use zoning, which means that there are no more "residential areas" as a legal category, is not the same thing as advocating for bulldozing Spring Valley and Dupont and replacing them with a thousand Cookie Cutter by Archstone buildings. I have heard plenty of people here argue for the former; Matt Yglesias is probably the only person I know of who would advocate the latter."

I have heard Alex B advocate for almost no zoning. I don't know of any other regular commentor who advocates for that, or even for the more moderate (but still not realistic IRL) idea of form based codes everywhere (which would zone for density and bulk, but not for usage - so commercial could be anywhere).

Once again - A. even if you DID have form based codes, and commercial were legal everywhere, realistically that would mean a scattering of corner store type retail, and maybe a broader range of home based businesses in residential neighorhoods - they would still be the same density (cause a form based code still limits density) the total amount of retail would be limited (because there is not unlimited market demand for retail) and they would still be appropriate for the kinds of speed limits Oboe wants.

B. Thats NOT politically realistic anywhere. In DC, the very controversial new zoning code, is much more restrictive than that - corner stores are limited by type, location, and number, and would still be banned in some zones.

The notion of real enforcement of 20MPH limits on side streets, as optimistic as it seems, is far more realistic than the notion of all those side streets (in DC or anywhere else in the region) becoming "mixed use" in any meaningful sense.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 29, 2013 9:24 am • linkreport

well said oboe oen conoboe. like a bully who hurles the taunt, the initial sting is nothing compared to the potential loss of self esteem. If terrorists only wanted to inflict violence, they would be called violators. They want to terrorize you in the long run, thus their name.

by Thayer-D on Aug 29, 2013 9:28 am • linkreport

I have heard Alex B advocate for almost no zoning.

No, you've heard me write about the problems of our current zoning regime and the unintended consequences it has.

The fact that you've translated that analysis in your mind to the idea that we should get rid of zoning is a nice validation of the large and systemic problems with the idea and execution of zoning - but I haven't made such a policy proposal.

by Alex B. on Aug 29, 2013 9:32 am • linkreport

@Thayer-D -all the things you mention are quantifiable.

We need data so we can have policies based on evidence rather than on the desire of the lobbiest with the most money or on ideology/mis-perception/mis-information/propaganda, etc.

It took 60 years of constantly mounting evidence to change policies on marketing cigarettes to children; it took a butt-load of data to change policies requiring all auto's to have seatbelts and air-bags.

Data helps those with less power (money) to influence public policies that have profound impact on daily lives, such as whether or not one can CHOOSE to ride a bike to work 10miles from home b/c transportation planning incorporated freedom of choice of mode, public health and economic vitality into shaping the built environment and transportation system.

We have mounting data that walkable/bikeable places are more economically vital than those w/o those facilities.

In terms of increased mobility-a necessary element of economic activity as well as quality of life (both quantifiable)-public investment in walking and biking facilities has a greater return on investment (ROI) than road building. There is data to support this statement.

Integrated into the economic vitality facet is a healthier workforce (better for employers) and decreased healthcare spending on life-style induced chronic disease. This is better for employers, individuals and governments.

Increased mode share of active transportation (walking and biking) also results in less air and water pollution with a whole set of $ savings associated with it including human health outcomes.

This is all quantifiable. Data and evidence helps bolster this argument.

by Tina on Aug 29, 2013 9:58 am • linkreport

"No, you've heard me write about the problems of our current zoning regime and the unintended consequences it has.

The fact that you've translated that analysis in your mind to the idea that we should get rid of zoning is a nice validation of the large and systemic problems with the idea and execution of zoning - but I haven't made such a policy proposal."

My impression was that the only zoning you considered to make sense were limits on industrial uses (thats why I said almost no zoning, and not "no zoning") What zoning do you think makes sense? I'm curious. Both for your opinion in general (I find you persuasive on many things, and it would help me to get context) and because it would inform the discussion with Dizzy.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 29, 2013 10:26 am • linkreport

" Yet where is the data which accounts for the degredation of the land,"

https://www.google.com/#q=land+degradation+data

" or the threat to bacteria with only one kind of crop?"

A few of these, though a bunch of bad hits - im probably not googling optimally on this one

https://www.google.com/#q=crop+monoculture+disease+data

"How about the data on pesticides effect on the bee population"

https://www.google.com/#q=pesticides+bees+data

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 29, 2013 10:31 am • linkreport

Tina,
I agree that all those things are quantifiable, but how do they directly affect the speed at which our streets are designed, or more importantly how do they help us deside where and what kind of transportation to build? It all seems to be inter-related, but how do you tease it out in a way that can deflect the " it's snowing today, so much for global warming!" crowd?

by Thayer-D on Aug 29, 2013 10:37 am • linkreport

What zoning do you think makes sense?

Zoning is a blunt tool. We need to recognize the limitations of the tool, and also the consequences of using it beyond those limits.

Zoning is primarily about form - this is when it is most effective. Even so, shaping the city is one thing - if zoning itself does not have a policy of providing a city enough room to grow, the limits on form (effective as they might be) can provide a serious constraint with unintended consequences.

On use, there is a connection between form and use - you design a storefront differently from a residence, for example. However, the fine-grained definitions of uses in many zoning codes presume a level of control that does not exist, nor should it - one of the great values of urban economies is the creativity they foster.

Other elements of current zoning codes feature the same problems as roadway engineering as discussed in this post: parking minimums are supposedly supported with data about parking demand, but the data is dubious, biased, and hardly a complete picture of how we get around in cities. The codes then impose regulations that presume more control over transport than they actually have (e.g. parking minimums haven't made off-street parking easier in DC) and do so with tremendous additional costs and unintended consequences.

by Alex B. on Aug 29, 2013 10:39 am • linkreport

Alex

I am not asking what you find wrong with current zoning codes, but what zoning you would continue to have.

I am reading the above as 1. Form based codes that would limit height/bulk/FAR/density BUT only if they allowed sufficient room to grow (in the jurisdiction and/or the metro area) 2. No explicit restriction on (non industrial) commercial uses, but possibly form based limits that would limit some kinds of commercial uses.

For the sake of this discussion Im not focused on parking minimums which to me seem to be ancillary to the principle goals of zoning which are regulation of form and use. Parking is a side effect of form and use, and proper pricing would remove the benefits of regulating it.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 29, 2013 10:53 am • linkreport

Thayer, you're asking Tina to give you a perfect answer, when you're not offering an alternative, other than... we'll figure it out?

A designer's intuition is doing the same things that a designer is doing when they look at datasets: looking for patterns. Quantification makes a lot of those patterns easier to spot and analyze. But because you're looking for patterns in both cases, your perceptiveness will be limited by how you frame the problem. That's not a problem with quanta. You have to exercise judgement somewhere, but the data can really help avoid bias and confusion.

by Neil Flanagan on Aug 29, 2013 11:05 am • linkreport

Dude (Neil),
I'm on Tina's side. I like her opinions and appreciate her pushing a point that I hadn't thought through as well. I wasn't asking for a perfect answer, simply a better one, becasue I and others can use it to improve something as a designer I feel intuitivly (as you rightly say), and she seems to be able to help.

I struggle to explain things for which I have seen fragmentary and disparate data, yet feel right, and since I'm not of the gut check as proof crowd, I look for help wherever I can get it. Like the statement that transportation is all about efficiency. The assumption is that we are machines and have no other needs other than bodily functions. Thus my whole harange against the Modernists who would reduce human living into "machines for living", but let's not go there.

by Thayer-D on Aug 29, 2013 11:30 am • linkreport

UVa professor Peter Norton's book "Fighting Traffic" was the source for the "Modern Moloch" material, and it's absolutely among the most amazing books I've read. The chapter on jaywalking, in particular, was excerpted into a journal article (if you don't have patience for the whole book) and summarized by Sarah Goodyear over at Atlantic Cities.

by Payton on Aug 29, 2013 11:40 am • linkreport

@Thayer-D, yes, it is all inter-related. Like an ecosystem!
As a designer, are you looking for specific recommendations for what characteristics a built environment has? Or data to show some decision maker to convince that person to include those characteristics in the design?

by Tina on Aug 29, 2013 12:44 pm • linkreport

I agree that it's an ecosystem, except when you start to explain it that way, it sounds almost like a religion rather than a scientific approach to improving the environment. I wonder if Brookings or ULI has done some kind of study that takes into account the quality of life issues that don't always correspond to the typical metrics that inform our regulatory agencies.

by Thayer-D on Aug 29, 2013 8:48 pm • linkreport

One of the things I thought would be useful is if all the sciences where taught (in school) like the ecosystem they tend to segregate. Obviously they need to be atomized to understand their components, but they also need to be brought together to see thier inter-relation. The more the public is educated in the interconnectedness of all these aspects, the better decisions they might make. Some of the tools that are already being used to quantify the quality of life issues is walk score and walkability. Tallying speed of cars and barriers to walkability will affect the pedestrian experience, and it's starting to affect real-estate prices, which is data nobody can refute.

by Thayer-D on Aug 30, 2013 6:26 am • linkreport

@Thayer-D, Isn't it weird that a scientific perspective (making the observation of interconnected systems) is perceived by some as "religious"? I don't get that. But that's OT.

I know for certain ULI has embraced this approach. ULI recently endorsed this: http://www.partnership4at.org/

Public health professionals have been trying to get the attention of transportation planners for decades, to be able to have input into transportation planning and policies. DOT's are much more powerful than DOH's; they receive many times the funding and far more autonomy. For an example see the difference between the CDC and USDOT.

DOT's are starting to change. Before the last election changed things, the state of NC had integrated their state DOH and DOT to create a planning & decision making process about transportation informed by impacts on human health and the attending economic consequences (good or bad) downstream from certain transportation system projects & plans.

Here is an example: http://ncregion1ctg.squarespace.com/active-living-resources/2013/3/18/health-in-all-policies

The concept is Health in all Policies.

Part of the challenge is that the mission of public health is primary prevention but our healthcare system runs on treatment, not prevention. There's no money to be made in preventing diabetes, e.g., but a lot to made in the sales of drugs to treat diabetes. It's hard to show "money not spent". However the tide is turning since we have created a crises in healthcare spending on life-style preventable diseases for which the built environment (land use & transportation planning) is a major factor.

Safety is is only one concern regarding transportation planning; the concern effecting more people, and their health, is car-dependence. 40k people killed in traffic crashes as auto occupants, pedestrians and others is far too many and can be reduced.

Meanwhile 25 million people in the US are diagnosed with diabetes, a life-style induced disease that is preventable in 95% of cases. Walking regularly is a proven prevention. There is evidence for this:
http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/preventionprogram/

by Tina on Aug 30, 2013 9:00 am • linkreport

Health in all Policies - That's what I'm talking about.
It gives one hope that it's starting to resonate with some states since fiefdoms in government are a natural impediment against better integration between agencies like education, health, environment, and transportation. I've seen it up close in "Smart Growth" Maryland, where to get a sidewalk to a park and school 5 minutes outside of Downtown Silver Spring is a labarinthian proposal.
Thanks for sharing

by Thayer-D on Aug 30, 2013 9:35 am • linkreport

This morning on the way to work I was on Carlin Springs Road (lined by houses) doing 30 (the posted speed limit) when I was passed aggressively by someone doing at least 40 (30% over the posted limit). I'm sure that enforcing the speed limit with a camera would be some sort of civil liberties issue. I'm sure that he was just trying to get somewhere. I'm sure that applying traffic calming to what should be a much narrower and less banked street would be an unacceptable extension of the war on cars.

This morning on the way to work I was on route 50 (lined by houses) doing 45 (the posted speed limit) when I was passed aggressively by someone in a blue mustang revving the engine to see how fast he could accelerate. I'd estimate he hit at least 60 in the quarter mile before he had to stop for the cars already at the red light. I'm sure that enforcing the speed limit with a camera would have been some sort of civil liberties issue. I'm sure that he shouldn't be penalized because he's just trying to get somewhere. I'm sure that making people from Loudoun county take longer to get to work so that people in Fairfax county don't get run over would be an unacceptable extension of the war on cars. There's a memorial almost exactly at that spot for a kid who was killed by a motorist while trying to cross the street.

Would everyone posting anecdotes of every dangerous behavior they observe from a motorist help? It seems to be the thing to do when talking about anything to do with bicycles. I do realize the the internet might crash under the volume of posts if everyone jumped on board with this, but I think the change in the conversation and possible change in perceptions would be worth it.

by Mike on Aug 30, 2013 9:47 am • linkreport

The problem is that not many people realize the toll that motor vehicles actually takes on life.

Now add in the stress of traffic and it's health impacts. You get the idea here.

Here in Rhode Island most of the urban areas have full sidewalks, crosswalks, etc. But get down into Warwick/West Warwick RI and you won't even find sidewalks. The Suburbs of RI were all about the car, every last bit of it.

by Truthspew on Aug 30, 2013 5:46 pm • linkreport

@ Tina "If a drop in total fatalities is not also accompanied by a non-change or increase in total number of trips taken by walking and/or number of people walking regularly and/or mode share of walking it doesn't indicate increased safety; it just reflects that fewer people walk thus fewer people are killed while walking."

We already know from multiple GGW articles that the number of car trips is falling and everyone is moving to walkable urban neighborhoods, so the number of walking trips must inevitably continue to rise.

"The fact that NHTSA doesn't have readily available data over time on mode share, rate and probability of ped crash death over time but pages and pages of it for motor vehicle occupants is indicative of the problem that this post spot-lights."

NHTSA's website has data from the 90s to the present (well, 2011 is the latest data published) on the annual numbers of pedestrians and cyclists injuries and fatalities, and injury and fatality rates.

by Chris S. on Aug 30, 2013 7:11 pm • linkreport

"We already know from multiple GGW articles that the number of car trips is falling and everyone is moving to walkable urban neighborhoods, so the number of walking trips must inevitably continue to rise."

No one here has ever said that everyone is moving to walkable neighborhoods.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 30, 2013 7:38 pm • linkreport

@Chris S, Injusry to motor vehicle occupants has been dropping, due to seat belt use and air bags and better designed cars, to disperse force away from occupants. This drop was seen even before the trend in dropping VMT. During that same time when injury to motor vehicle occupants dropped, injury to pedestrians did not drop.

Additionally, the most recent general estimate of mode share of walking is 12%, yet pedestrians represent 14% of car crash fatalities.

And, even tho' pedestrians make up 12% of mode share nationally only 1.5% of the total federal transportation budget is for walking and biking infrastructure and safety improvements. Let me repeat that:

Walking and biking make up about 13.5% (12% walking) of national mode share yet only 1.5% of the federal transportation budget is used for walking and biking infrastructure and safety improvements.

Regarding the data Scoot and I were discussing, it's from a a specific report on data 1999-2006. Other than this report I have not seen analysis on probability of fatality for a ped given a crash. Yes, annual total no. of ped crashes is given in NHTSA reports, and ped crashes/total crashes.

Look, everything in the budget and crash reports and built environment shows a pattern of sacrificing all other modes of travel to the SOV. You are not going to find data otherwise. If you want to argue this pattern is the way it should be, then do that. But you are not going to find data showing equity for peds.

If we see in some local areas better ped/bike equity that is something to celebrate. indeed, the best way to turn the federal perspective is from pressure from local constituents, who, by and large, love their bike trails and safe walking environments.

by Tina on Aug 31, 2013 8:49 am • linkreport

I think that we need to get the decision makers out of their cars. Its very hard to understand walkability/bikability if you always have a windshield perspective. I'd start with the police, who enforce the laws. Cops might have a better understanding of the mom with a stroller trying to get around if they got out of their 8 cyclinder Crown Victorias and did foot pr bike patrols at least once a week.

by SJE on Sep 2, 2013 11:47 am • linkreport

Found a link to, and summary of, Norton's shorter article on jaywalking. Those adept at finding journal articles should be able to find a free copy of it, or of Norton's UVa dissertation (subsequently published as Fighting Traffic) online.

by Payton on Sep 2, 2013 2:26 pm • linkreport

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