Greater Greater Washington

Pedestrian safety ads feature damage to cars, not people

With dozens of people struck by cars every month in the District, pedestrian and bicycle safety is a serious concern. The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) has introduced a new street safety campaign for 2011 with the intent of addressing inter-modal accidents.


Image from StreetSmart.

However, the new ads from the Street Smart public safety program that are now appearing on area billboards and bus shelters send the wrong message. In the ads, a damaged car is shown after what appears to be an accident with a pedestrian or bicyclist, both of which are proportionally much larger.


Images from StreetSmart.

The ads feature several warnings, such as "Get Real...Wait for the Walk" to "Watch for Bicyclists When Turning." But the defining feature in each image is that the car, not the pedestrian or cyclist, is the only injured party during a crash.


Image from StreetSmart.

Previous ad campaigns from the MWCOG have been particularly noteworthy. One launched in 2008 depicts a car violently hitting a person on foot. The ads were clearly meant to shock both drivers and pedestrians into being more aware of their surroundings in order to avoid collisions; they were so effective that I still remember them now, several years later.

The new ads, on the other hand, remind me of times as a kid when I accidentally fell while walking. My dad would ask, jokingly, if the sidewalk was hurt in the fall, which took my mind off a skinned knee or bruised arm. While I was just fine after a minor stumble, pedestrians and bicyclists hit by vehicles are not often so lucky.

Everyone should follow traffic safety laws, but the idea that it's only the car that gets damaged in a pedestrian accident defies logic. MWCOG's Street Smart program is an important one, and this iteration of ads could be substantially less effective than what the council has produced in the past.

Correction: The ads as listed on the StreetSmart website have yellow borders reading "A Giant Pedestrian (or Bicycle) Safety Problem." Several people pointed out that this should be considered part of the creative. I've updated the images to include that, and also show both versions of the pedestrian and bicycle ads with different taglines.

A native Washingtonian, Adam currently resides in the Dupont Circle neighborhood. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland where he studied political science and he has a keen interest in local governance. 

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You have got to be kidding me with these PSA's!!! I looked for a link to send them a response but could find none.
So the best they can do is to go after the most vulnerable road users? Are pedestrians REALLY the problem or is it the drivers? My money's on the latter...just judging by what I see everyday when I try to cross my little section of RI Ave. Freakin ridiculous!

by thump on Mar 25, 2011 12:46 pm • linkreport

It did take me a second to get the message they were trying to convey with these ads. I thought to myself: "A giant foot crushing an automobile? What does that have to do with pedestrian safety?"

The previous PSAs showing the pedestrians, coffee (formerly) in hand, being hit by a vehicle, were much more effective.

by engrish_major on Mar 25, 2011 12:55 pm • linkreport

I suspect the point here may be that the previous campaign wasn't effective for the type of driver being targeted by the campaign. After all, someone who views pedestrians and bicyclists as rage-inducing impediments to their own ability to drive however they please is not going to be moved by images of pedestrians or cyclists being struck.

What *might* serve to motivate that type of driver is the notion that their car is going to be heavily damaged by a crash with a bicyclist or pedestrian, or that it will at least be a greater inconvenience to be involved in a crash than it is to stop at crosswalks.

I had been hoping the last campaign's images might have served to at least remind my fellow downtown pedestrians that just because they have right of way, that doesn't mean there is some magical forcefield surrounding them when they step out into the street. However, that certainly doesn't seem to be in evidence from the behaviors I see every day (e.g., crossing in the middle of the street, crossing against the signal, distracted crossing [texting, talking on phone, fiddling with an iPod]).

by Prin on Mar 25, 2011 12:55 pm • linkreport

Yes, and pedestrians and bicyclists aren't really tens of times bigger than cars!

I'm terrified that with these new ads, drivers will only look for pedestrians who tower above the city skyline!

by AR on Mar 25, 2011 12:56 pm • linkreport

Too bad the PSAs can't offer info to drivers like:"$2000 fine for hitting a pedestrian in a crosswalk-Slow Down and save a life". Or appeal to drivers' better selves: "Be a Hero. Save a life. Slow down. (with a picture of a walker & biker)" But there's not a charge for this crime. Remember the boy in PG who was in the crosswalk with the light when he got hit and then blamed?

by Tina on Mar 25, 2011 1:02 pm • linkreport

I agree that these ads seem more focused on drivers and helping them realize that a crash, even with a soft and squishy pedestrian, would cause damage to their cars.

However, I can also see the ped perspective of these ads. At least for the first one, the key is the phrase "Get real..." The 100' woman crossing the street is often how entitled pedestrians feel, invulnerable. "Get real" instructs them to realize that they are NOT as the ad depicts.

However, that concept completely fails on the other two ads, especially since they're missing the only thing that ties the graphic to the message, the words "Get real."

by MDE on Mar 25, 2011 1:06 pm • linkreport

One group these ads do appeal to: foot fetishists.

by David C on Mar 25, 2011 1:09 pm • linkreport

If you go to the campaign's Web page it looks like many of the ads have 2 versions. There's a "watch out for pedestrians" version of the giant high heels ad and a "get real" version seemingly berating the pedestrians. Same for the huge bicycle one.

by David Alpert on Mar 25, 2011 1:12 pm • linkreport

While I agree that these ads may not prove to be very effective, I think the point of switching the size of the cars/people isn't to point out that "cars get damaged" so much as its a failed attempt at role reversal. As in "the bigger object doesn't get damaged, so shouldn't it watch where it's going?" That's probably what the first slogan "Get Real" means. As in "this isn't really going to happen. you, car-driver, are going to be the one inflicting the damage."

Again, I agree that the ads aren't effective, but I do not believe that they are purposely "pro-car."

by Amin on Mar 25, 2011 1:15 pm • linkreport

I'm with @Prin on this - this is to appeal to a person's self-centered nature: if you don't watch out for pedestrians, your car's gonna get wrecked. Trying to appeal to a person's better angels rarely works.

Actually, the previous campaigns, although shocking, are targetted to the non-driver: "Cross like your life depends on it." This is for drivers, and I think it looks good.

(No I don't have a foot fetish. Geeze.)

by OctaviusIII on Mar 25, 2011 1:20 pm • linkreport

I think the first ad (Get real ... wait for the walk) is aimed at pedestrians and is supposed to tell pedestrians that they need to "get real" about the danger from cars. The giant foot lady is supposed to represent the mistaken mindset of pedestrians who think they're invulnerable and illustrate how ridiculous that is. But this trope doesn't work for the other two ads because they don't have the same "get real" message -- and also because the bike ad is directed at cars instead of bikers. Very confusing.

by M on Mar 25, 2011 1:23 pm • linkreport

How about a message "Yield to pedestrians in marked and unmarked crosswalks - It's the law". That would serve an actual educational purpose, which is more likely to change behavior than mere exhortation. Most drivers are unaware with the law about unmarked crosswalks.

by Ben Ross on Mar 25, 2011 1:39 pm • linkreport

I happen to know someone who was involved in the development of this campaign. These ads are intended to be ironic. The irony being that it never is the driver/car that bears the brunt of a crash but rather the person without the tons of steel protection-- the pedestrian or the bicyclist. The takeway message is meant to be that there is a "Giant Pedestrian Safety Problem"-- in fact that text is part of the final ads, I'm not sure why these images omit that text.

My complaint is that the bulk of the ads I've seen on buses and bus shelters advise pedestrians to wait for the walk signal. But the campaign also includes an ad that is more aimed at drivers and I haven't yet seen that one on the street.

by Mo on Mar 25, 2011 1:42 pm • linkreport

Never appeal to a man's "better nature." He may not have one. Invoking his self-interest gives you more leverage.

(Heinlein)

by Omri on Mar 25, 2011 1:42 pm • linkreport

Mo is exactly right - these ads are intended to be ironic and somewhat humorous. They depict what some pedestrians seem to think is the case - that they are mighty and invincible, and that they can cross the intersection with 2 seconds remaining before the light changes. The message is "get real" - if there isn't an accident, it isn't the car that is going to get damaged, its you.
I thought it was clever - the point of public safety advertising is to get people to think, and create a memorable image, and these ads seems to me more likely to capture and hold one's attention than the usual "cross with walk sign, be careful, yadda yadda, blah blah"
But from the reactions of people here (some of whom actually seem to think it is intended to advise drivers that their cars will be damaged if they hit somebody!), I now think its too subtle, and is likely to just confuse people.

by Mike on Mar 25, 2011 1:52 pm • linkreport

This is like life imitates art, right?

http://goo.gl/j9gCU
(Onion article, contains 4-letter words.)

by MLD on Mar 25, 2011 2:06 pm • linkreport

While PSA's are good, they are better if they work with the law. The current laws, and their enforcement, are a joke. You can kill someone and (a) blame the victim and/or (b) only get a traffic ticket. Perhaps that IS what the PSAs are trying to communicate: that you might also scratch the car. OK, I'm sure everyone will slow down now.

by SJE on Mar 25, 2011 2:18 pm • linkreport

Mo, I get the irony in the campaign. It saddens me that we are spending $$$ to promote safe driving, but can't do much to actually provide serious incentives.

To follow Omri's comment: "If men were angels, no government would be necessary." (Federalist 51)

by SJE on Mar 25, 2011 2:22 pm • linkreport

I get what the campaign's designers were trying to do, but I think it's just ineffective. Instead of being ironic, it comes off as corny (much like my dad's joke). The image of a car slamming into a pedestrian, like in the last campaign, is very effective and doesn't require people to ponder its meaning or even read the text.

by Adam L on Mar 25, 2011 2:26 pm • linkreport

Hahah these ads are a bit ridiculous on so many levels, mainly though they are completely unrealistic. No person is going to look at this and actually think about the consequences of jay walking or unsafely/illegally crossing the street.

Honestly the MPD simply needs to ticket jaywalkers and at the same time ticket drivers who refuse to stop for people crossing legally or those who block crosswalks.

by Ryan S. on Mar 25, 2011 2:42 pm • linkreport

You've only posted a portion of the creative. You've omitted the headline which reads, "A Giant Pedestrian Safety Problem," which is why there is a giant pedestrian. See www.bestreetsmart.net

by GT on Mar 25, 2011 2:43 pm • linkreport

I wasn't sure what to think of these. So I concluded that the message behind them is that pedestrians get hurt pretty badly by cars, so let's show the car drivers what it'd be like if their vehicle got hurt pretty badly. It's pretty ridiculous to think that that actually happens, so that's what the "get real" is for.

I don't think they're actually trying to tell motorists that pedestrians can do serious damage to cars. If they wanted to say that, they wouldn't use a super-huge person.

by Tim on Mar 25, 2011 2:46 pm • linkreport

@GT

While the headline makes a little more sense (the ads are still corny at best, ineffective at worst), that text doesn't appear on all the ads as printed.

by Adam L on Mar 25, 2011 2:48 pm • linkreport

>While PSA's are good, they are better if they work with the law.
The Street Smart campaign always coincides with additional enforcement by police.

>You've only posted a portion of the creative. You've omitted the headline which reads, "A Giant Pedestrian Safety Problem"
The headline was added at the last minute specifically because the ad was confusing without it.

by BeyondDC on Mar 25, 2011 3:29 pm • linkreport

I think "dumb" would be a better description than "ironic".

I can understand how someone tried to come up with a clever idea and ended up with something that makes no sense to anyone but him. That's the danger of trying to brainstorm new ideas. But someone along the line should have pointed out that the result sucks.

by David desJardins on Mar 25, 2011 3:48 pm • linkreport

At least a bunch of criticism brings attention to the campaign... so all's not *entirely* bad!

by Bossi on Mar 25, 2011 3:57 pm • linkreport

Any PSA that puts the onus on pedestrians misses the mark. I'm sure we've all seen "distracted peds" but if we're honest, the vast majority of the time, the problem is the driver of a motorized vehicle (either not paying attention or speeding, etc).
I don't know if I'm in the minority or what, but when I'm crossing the street I have a pretty good idea that I'm the most vulnerable user and I act accordingly. That the smart, involved, aware people here on GGW sorta kinda get the message of this PSA doesn't bode well for it's effectiveness on people who aren't smart/aware enough to pay attention crossing a street.
Again...the problem isn't pedestrians, it's careless drivers!

by thump on Mar 25, 2011 4:13 pm • linkreport

@thump: if we're honest, the vast majority of the time, the problem is the driver of a motorized vehicle

I'm doubtful about that. Do you have evidence?

by David desJardins on Mar 25, 2011 4:16 pm • linkreport

My first thought looking at the picture of the high heels and then what look like flip flops on the bicyclist: were these designed by the police officer who wrote the report on Alice Swanson's footwear? What is this obsession with pedestrian feet? It feels rather pornographic.

My second thought was that these are fairly close to my own fantasy ad: There's a car blocking a crosswalk (traffic light is red for the car) and Godzilla's giant foot is poised mid-air, about to come down and smash it. But my fantasy caption is just: "Don't block the crosswalk".

I also am not crazy about the "Cross after the bus leaves the stop" message. If the bus stop is in the middle of a block, we (generally) shouldn't be crossing there anyway. If it's right before a crosswalk, as many (including the one in the picture) are, then we either have the right of way (if we have a walk signal or if it's unsignaled) or we don't (if it's signaled and we don't have the light). I also don't understand how crossing before the bus left the stop led to the car being damaged. Both the bus and the ped look fine. The written message just encourages bus drivers to violate pedestrian rights, but I think the overall ad would just lead someone to go "Huh?"

I'm reading Peter Norton's "Fighting Traffic" book and one of the historical tidbits he includes is that in the 1920's, many cities had "traffic safety weeks" and some cities had marches -- in DC, there was a march that included graphic reminders of the consequences of traffic violence -- coffins, skeletons, etc. -- "parading" down Pennsylvania Avenue. Maybe we need to return to the past.

by Eileen on Mar 25, 2011 4:17 pm • linkreport

@thump, "The problem isn't pedestrians...it's careless drivers."

No, the problem is careless people whether they be drivers, pedestrians or bicyclists.

by Some Ideas on Mar 25, 2011 4:27 pm • linkreport

Eileen, I'm the last person who would defend the investigating officer in the Alice Swanson report, but far too much was made of the flip-flops mention. Here's how I see it. The officer asked the question "were her flip-flops a cause?" and then came to the conclusion that "no, they were not." I don't see anything wrong with this. That's good investigating in my opinion. If the officer had blamed the crash on her flip-flops, that would have been another thing. But simply asking the question is not bad. And the whole part was maybe two sentences in a multi-page report, so it wasn't really a "report on footwear". There is plenty of room to criticize the police for that report without going to the flip-flops.

by David C on Mar 25, 2011 4:37 pm • linkreport

The bigger (get it, cause they're giants) with this campaign is the messages they've chosen.

Let's take bicycling. If we could change one thing cyclists do and one thing drivers do so as to make things safer, is this what we would choose? getting cyclist to obey traffic control devices and drivers to watch for cyclists when turning? It's not what I would choose. What does "watch for bicyclists" or pedestrians even mean? It's so innocuous as to not really give anyone a positive action.

For the bike ads, I'd go with "Always use lights and reflectors at night" and add that "though only 10% of cycling is at night, half of all fatalities occur after dark." And for drivers I'd go with "Give three feet when passing" (since asking them not to speed will probably have no effect) - I suspect many people don't know that's the law.

I'm not as well versed in causes of ped-car crashes, but my point is that the ads should be tied to 1) Behavior that is dangerous and 2) Behavior that can be changed.

by David C on Mar 25, 2011 4:47 pm • linkreport

@David desJardins-Actually yes, though it couldn't be called scientific, several hours of video from my little stretch of RI Ave (in MD) that shows car after car speeding through our roundabout. Several instances where pedestrians came within feet of being struck when vehicles failed to yield to said pedestrians in a marked crosswalk, and countless other times when a pedestrian in a median "pedestrian refuge" watched haplessly for any sign that a car might stop so they could cross. I've counted 12 signs around the roundabout announcing to drivers to "Stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk". It simply doesn't happen on a regular basis. Cases of distracted pedestrians crossing during same hours of film...0.
I invite you to go to any corner in any area of the city or it's surroundings with a pen, paper and a clipboard and mark each time you see a pedestrian NOT paying attention vs a driver NOT paying attention. To clarify, my idea of a pedestrian not paying attention would be someone who didn't look both ways before leaving the curb or looking down at a mobile device/book/paper etc. while stepping off and perhaps something else I'm not thinking of. Just talking on a phone or listening to an ipod would not, to me, constitute not paying attention. I would, however, consider a driver talking on a phone or listening to an ipod or reading to be not paying attention. The big difference to me is speed of the mode..the amount of distance one would cover in a second, let's say. That second of inattention in a vehicle traveling at 25 (the posted speed that no one obeys around here)=36.7 ft. If you're trying to text or dial a number you're talking 3-5 seconds??? Plenty of time to miss that pedestrian crossing legally in a crosswalk (marked or unmarked).
My biggest point with these PSA's is that they seem to target the most vulnerable users. Exactly the opposite of a good strategy.

by thump on Mar 25, 2011 4:53 pm • linkreport

@David C: And for drivers I'd go with "Give three feet when passing"

I think that's a strange choice. This might make cyclists more comfortable, but I don't think it's how most auto-bike collisions occur, from shading the distance and cutting it too close. They mostly occur in situations where for one reason or other the car or bike is just in the wrong place---cars drifting onto shoulders, right hooks, turning left and not seeing the bike at all---and the difference between 2 feet or 3 feet is completely irrelevant.

by David desJardins on Mar 25, 2011 4:53 pm • linkreport

@thump: Actually yes, though it couldn't be called scientific, several hours of video from my little stretch of RI Ave (in MD) that shows car after car speeding through our roundabout.

This isn't just unscientific, it isn't even on point. If you're going to make claims about the cause of most crashes, you have to look at actual crashes. It's entirely consistent with your anecdotal observations that speeding is endemic and yet most crashes are caused by other factors.

by David desJardins on Mar 25, 2011 4:55 pm • linkreport

This might make cyclists more comfortable

Yes. Is that so bad?

by Neil Flanagan on Mar 25, 2011 4:57 pm • linkreport

@Neil Flanagan: Yes. Is that so bad?

No, obviously encouraging cycling is a good thing (imho). But it doesn't contribute to safety, which I thought was the point of these ads. It's just a different objective. I would make a different set of PSAs if I was trying to encourage cycling, than if I were trying to make it safer.

by David desJardins on Mar 25, 2011 5:07 pm • linkreport

They mostly occur in situations where for one reason or other the car or bike is just in the wrong place---cars drifting onto shoulders, right hooks, turning left and not seeing the bike at all

Even if what you say is true, what PSA would you create for this "Don't drift onto the shoulder"? "See cyclists who you don't see"? I'm trying to come up with something simple and proactive. Giving three feet with passing fits the bill.

the difference between 2 feet or 3 feet is completely irrelevant.

If someone misjudges it by 2 feet 2 inches it isn't. There are plenty of examples I could cite (Yoram Kauffman comes to mind) of cyclists who were killed by overtaking drivers who saw them, but misjudged the passing distance.

by David C on Mar 25, 2011 5:18 pm • linkreport

@David des-How's it not on point? My contention is that distracted peds aren't the problem, distracted/speeding drivers are. My (I'll grant you this) completely unscientific observations/hours of footage show not a single distracted pedestrian but hundreds/thousands? of speeding drivers not yielding to peds lawfully crossing. Had there been an accident in any of the number of close calls witnessed, it most certainly would have not been the fault of the ped.
Again, by targeting the most vulnerable road users, these PSA's miss the mark.

by thump on Mar 25, 2011 5:20 pm • linkreport

@David C: There are plenty of examples I could cite (Yoram Kauffman comes to mind) of cyclists who were killed by overtaking drivers who saw them, but misjudged the passing distance.

Please do cite them, with evidence. Do you have the police report? I'm not specifically familiar with Yoram Kaufman's accident, but the only discussion of the circumstances that I could find online says that he was actually engaged in a turn at the time of the crash. I'd like to see your facts.

http://sports.groups.yahoo.com/group/cpabc/message/172

by David desJardins on Mar 25, 2011 5:26 pm • linkreport

@thump: Had there been an accident in any of the number of close calls witnessed, it most certainly would have not been the fault of the ped.

But there weren't any crashes in your data! So it can't tell you much of anything about how crashes occur. Maybe there are thousands of speeding, distracted drivers, but they mostly don't cause crashes, and the crashes tend to occur on the rarer occasions when a pedestrian is inattentive or misbehaves. You can only tell by looking at actual crashes.

by David desJardins on Mar 25, 2011 5:28 pm • linkreport

Maybe there are thousands of speeding, distracted drivers, but they mostly don't cause crashes, and the crashes tend to occur on the rarer occasions when a pedestrian is inattentive or misbehaves

And where is your data?

by Neil Flanagan on Mar 25, 2011 5:42 pm • linkreport

thumps video is indeed scientific. Its direct observation (the 1st step in the scientific method), its documented data collection that anyone can repeat and from which a cross-sectional sample and a prevalence or even a rate of a described occurrance can be reported. no, its not hypothesis testing. Thats the 2nd step based on the observations in the 1st step. One must have observations/existing data on which to base hyspotheses.

by Tina on Mar 25, 2011 5:56 pm • linkreport

@Neil Flanagan: And where is your data?

Data for what? I'm saying the situation is unclear. You don't need data to be unsure about something; being unsure is exactly what happens in the absence of data.

by David desJardins on Mar 25, 2011 5:57 pm • linkreport

It's not part of the scientific method to study one thing by looking at something unrelated. I could do the world's most careful count of butterflies, well documented and reproducible, and yet it wouldn't tell me anything about the rate of coral bleaching.

His data tells us that speeding is endemic. Well, duh. I think we all knew that. But that doesn't tell us anything at all about how often speeding causes crashes.

by David desJardins on Mar 25, 2011 6:00 pm • linkreport

No, thumps viobservations are of an interaction between drivers and pedestrians in the traffic circle that occurred many times over time. Thats the described behavior.

by Tina on Mar 25, 2011 6:06 pm • linkreport

"observations"

by Tina on Mar 25, 2011 6:08 pm • linkreport

No? I think you mean yes, because you are agreeing with me. Thump has collected a lot of data about interactions that don't lead to crashes. But this tells you nothing at all about the probability distribution of interactions that do lead to crashes.

by David desJardins on Mar 25, 2011 6:12 pm • linkreport

You didn't say the situation was unclear, you said "Maybe there are thousands of speeding, distracted drivers, but they mostly don't cause crashes, and the crashes tend to occur on the rarer occasions when a pedestrian is inattentive or misbehaves."
No, there weren't any crashes...just a lot of close calls. NONE of them the fault of the user least able to protect herself.
The PSA's should go after drivers, not peds.

by thump on Mar 25, 2011 6:13 pm • linkreport

@thump: You didn't say the situation was unclear, you said "Maybe there are thousands of speeding, distracted drivers, but they mostly don't cause crashes, and the crashes tend to occur on the rarer occasions when a pedestrian is inattentive or misbehaves."

Huh? That's precisely what I said, that the situation is unclear, and this is one of many possibilities. That's what the word "maybe" means: it might be true, or it might not be true.

by David desJardins on Mar 25, 2011 6:17 pm • linkreport

The interactions or close calls are the incidences observed in thumps data. These in themselves are undesireable events. You may disagree but thump and I agree they are undesirable.

So the hypothesis is wwhat causes these undesireable interactions. I hypothesize its because drivers do not feel they are expected to be cautious of pedetsrians and to give way to them. Its just as easy for a driver to disregard the right-of-way of a pedestrian while drving the speed limit, or even under it, as it is while speeding. One may further hypothesize that this careless attitude towards pedestrians contributes to speeding. But we are interested in the close call interaction, not speeding.

The next question is how to modify drivers behavior to reduce close call interactions and increase incidences of drivers' giving peds their right of way.

by Tina on Mar 25, 2011 6:22 pm • linkreport

If the goal of the PSAs is to reduce close calls or make pedestrians and cyclists more comfortable on the road, then I agree that data about close calls is useful. I thought the goal was to reduce crashes and increase safety, which is also how the blog post above introduces the subject. The first sentence above is, "With dozens of people struck by cars every month in the District, pedestrian and bicycle safety is a serious concern." Not, "There are too many close calls."

by David desJardins on Mar 25, 2011 6:27 pm • linkreport

BeyondDC: "The Street Smart campaign always coincides with additional enforcement by police" I have not seen it: or does additional mean going from "nonexistent" to "very rare." Even if there were more enforcement, it does not make up for the laughable state of our laws. It is too easy to kill or maim someone with a car and get off with just a ticket. Essentially, the sort of behavior we permit from drivers would never be acceptable in any other sphere of activity.

by SJE on Mar 25, 2011 6:37 pm • linkreport

David desJardins: I agree that we should distinguish between different sorts of causes and effects. It is hard to model what behavior causes actual collisions, because they are very low probability events that are not subject to experimental variation. Witness accounts are inaccurate because of known cognitive deficiencies in such situations, and objectivity from the participants is going to be hard since they have an interest in asserting their perspective.

For those reasons, I would like to see more enforcement of existing laws (given the high probability/certainty of spotting illegal behavior in any given minute) and some more serious analysis of the causes in fatal and serious incidents.

by SJE on Mar 25, 2011 6:45 pm • linkreport

@DdJ, so you disagree with the hypothesis that the same types of behaviors that cause close calls contribute to crashes. thumps and I hypothesize that if close calls were reduced crashes would be reduced also because the causes of the two types of incidences are highly correlated and/or the same.

Again my primary hypothesis is that drivers do not think they are seriously expected to respect pedestrians' right-of-way and this leads to close-calls, the causes of which are highly correlated with/the same as the causes of crashes. There is existing evidence to support this hypothesis. One example of this evidence is that the MPD has recognized that the greater cultural environment in which drivers are not seriously expected to respect pedestrians affects the judgement of officers in the way they handle car-ped crashes leading to repeated incidences in which officers have gone to hospitals to issue tickets to struck pedestrians (see GGW post from earlier this week)

by Tina on Mar 25, 2011 7:01 pm • linkreport

@Tina: thumps and I hypothesize that if close calls were reduced crashes would be reduced also because the causes of the two types of incidences are highly correlated and/or the same.

I see good reasons to doubt this hypothesis. Are you saying that "the causes of the two types of incidences are highly correlated" is a fact, or is it part of your hypothesis? I've never seen any data that would support this claim, and I seriously doubt it.

For example, people overtaking without leaving as much room as they should is undoubtedly a source of "close calls", yet, from everything I have seen, it is very infrequently a source of crashes. Conversely, if a car turns left without yielding because the driver doesn't see the cyclist or the driver actually has the right of way, then a high percentage of "close calls" will actually become "crashes". The ratio of "close calls" to "crashes" seems to me likely to be very, very different in different types of situations.

by David desJardins on Mar 25, 2011 7:18 pm • linkreport

crashes tend to occur on the rarer occasions when a pedestrian is inattentive or misbehaves

This is hardly a statement of uncertainty. You are not being consistent in your fetishization of scientific process.

by Neil Flanagan on Mar 25, 2011 10:43 pm • linkreport

This is hardly a statement of uncertainty.

It's also not the sentence that I wrote. It's a subordinate clause. How dishonest can you be? This is like taking someone who wrote, "I doubt that pigs can fly," and accusing them of claiming, "pigs can fly," by pulling those words out of the sentence as if they were a standalone quote.

by David desJardins on Mar 25, 2011 10:46 pm • linkreport

And the war on cars doesnt exist?

by TGEoA on Mar 26, 2011 12:20 am • linkreport

What a hilarious state of affairs when GGW comes out swinging at a message for pedestrians warning them to also obey the rules or risk being hurt. This is why Courtland Malloy's famous 3 words took hold.

by Buntz on Mar 26, 2011 8:59 am • linkreport

I really have to wounder why there is no outreach to bike/ped safety groups before this stuff goes "live". This campaign goes to two metropolitan areas (Baltimore and DC.)

I find interesting that I have been very critical of the last Street Smart Campaign while Adam likes it.

How Cars Won the Early Battle for the Streets
http://www.baltimorespokes.org/article.php?story=20110207110910234

Alert: The head of Maryland's Highway Safety Office - improving pedestrian safety?
http://www.baltimorespokes.org/article.php?story=20110120171702960

New 'Get The F*** Outta The Road' Program Aims To Increase Pedestrian Safety
http://www.baltimorespokes.org/article.php?story=20100813104440316
(Notes how well our old campaign blended in with the Onion article.)

I have heard that part of this years enforcement for Maryland is to bring out of obscurity
§ 21-504. Drivers to exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian.

by Barry Childress on Mar 26, 2011 10:53 am • linkreport

Also if you are concerned about pedestrian safety in Maryland and our current ranking of the 4th highest pedestrian fatality rate you may want to see:
Secretary of Transportation Responds - Things have gotten better in the last three years
http://www.baltimorespokes.org/article.php?story=20110318114606250

by Barry Childress on Mar 26, 2011 10:58 am • linkreport

David:

I think I misread your original quote. I'm sorry for that. Nonetheless, the implication is highly counter-intuitive and runs against my experience and established science about reaction times, momentum, etc, and these alternative hypotheses are not helpful.

by Neil Flanagan on Mar 26, 2011 1:02 pm • linkreport

David desJardins,

Please do cite them, with evidence. Do you have the police report?

Police reports? Of course. I have hundreds of biycle fatality related police reports at my fingertips. Doesn't everyone?

Turn it down a notch there David, this is the comment section of a niche blog, not the Supreme Court.

I'm willing to take the time to dig up some more examples from my memory and the internet, but I'd need to know that I was doing more than trying to win a pissing contest [Though I do love a good pissing contest and I'm proud to say that I spent several years on the semi-pro pissing circuit in New England where accuracy scores more than distance].

I gave a suggestion for the education campaign. You thought it a strange choice. I explained why I thought it wasn't. Now you want me to prove that what I think is true.

How about you give me a better PSA. In the absence of a better PSA, I'm going to assume mine is the best, in which case this is all moot.

I'm not specifically familiar with Yoram Kaufman's accident, but the only discussion of the circumstances that I could find online says that he was actually engaged in a turn at the time of the crash. I'd like to see your facts.

Well, I knew Yoram. We worked together. I was there shortly after the crash (though I didn't know it at the time). Barry is a good guy, but I think his source is wrong. Yoram was hit on a long straight section of Soil Conservation Road, not anywhere near an intersection.

On the family's website they wrote "According to the driver, as she moved her vehicle across the double yellow line to get around Dad, he turned his head, noticed the oncoming vehicle, was startled, and collided with it." But frankly that doesn't sound realistic to me. No way you don't notice a car behind you or suddenly turn into it. I think she wasn't giving him enough space.

by David C on Mar 26, 2011 2:37 pm • linkreport

Better safety campaign (IMHO):
http://www.nycbikemaps.com/spokes/look-new-nyc-bike-safety-ad-campaign/

Re: Yoram
Just after the crash there were two stories floating around one had Yoram trying to do a u-turn to avoid a difficult intersection and the other had him going straight.

I have been contacted by Yoram's family and the going straight is the correct story. The tragedy in this story IMHO is the driver was doing 50mph in a 35mph zone (IIRC) and not cited.

I will note my speculation in all this is I noticed a tendency to "explain" why Yoram ended up on the left side of the road with a left movement by Yoram. This is totally unnecessary as a fast passing car that "nicks" a cyclist handlebars will send the cyclist flying with a left vector.

Similarly with the resent crash in Baltimore, is there an effort to "explain" a right vector by the cyclist as the cyclist trying to pass on the right or did the car simply slow down and start turning while passing a cyclist causing the now faster cyclist handlebars to snap left, catapulting the cyclists with a right vector?

Again all this is speculation as I don't know how the investigation concluded its "facts." But it would be a real shame that evidence that should have shown that the car passed Yoram too close was misinterpreted as Yoram contributed to the crash and similarly with the crash in Baltimore.

I mention all this as someone needs to keep an eye on this issue to confirm or deny that the police are doing proper bicycle crash investigations or are they oversimplifying car physics onto bicycles?

by Barry Childress on Mar 27, 2011 10:58 am • linkreport

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