Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Will Car Drivers Fight Efforts to Make Transit Fashionable?

So, you're driving down the road and you spot a person traveling on foot, or perhaps a cyclist in business attire. Maybe someone waiting for the bus. What is your perception of that person? Do you feel sorry for them? Or are you irritated by their smug sense of superiority? Or both? Can you feel both of these things at the same time?

I'm reminded of a piece in Planetizen last December in which Brian Ladd describes how transit is appealing more to riders of choice, contradicting the belief, often reinforced by politicians, that public transit is for people who have no choice.
When a Los Angeles bus rider asked presidential candidate George W. Bush about transit improvements in 2000, Bush responded, "My hope is that you will be able to find good enough work so you'll be able to afford a car." Bush was undoubtedly sincere. Like many Americans—probably most—he saw a bus (like a bicycle) as a nothing more than a pathetic substitute for a car.
How we feel about people who use alternative forms of transportation affects policy and ultimately the resources we spend on them. Ladd worries that as alternative transportation becomes more fashionable, car drivers will adopt a bunker mentality and try to demonize policies that favor bikes, trains, and buses.

Just remember, for every person you see on foot, on a bike, or waiting for a bus, that represents one car that is NOT in your way.

Monday, August 8, 2011

What to Do About a Lack of Crosswalks: Prosecute Pedestrians?

The issue of providing safe crossing for pedestrians has been front and center ever since the national media took notice of the Raquel Nelson story in Atlanta. Ms. Nelson was convicted of vehicular homicide because her four-year-old son was hit and killed as the family crossed a four-lane road. There were no crosswalks nearby.

From Atlanta to Mumbai, the transportation infrastructure has deemed cars a far higher priority than pedestrians. The result is soaring pedestrian death rates.

The Times of India reports "nearly 78% of road fatalities are pedestrians," a result of the country's focus on widening roads to accommodate the surge in cars.

Policies in most American cities aren't that different, with transportation and transit planners' single purpose being to move as many cars through an area as fast as possible. The solution isn't how to eliminate the cars but how to slow them down to accommodate other modes.

Ben Welle, assistant project manager of Health and Road Safety at EMBARQ, says “The thing to remember is that the one thing that is always involved in a car crash is a car, so slowing them down through good design and shifting trips through high quality mass transit, walking and biking facilities can really reduce risk.”

To read more about Raquel Nelson's story and the issues they have raised check out the following links:
Pedestrian Infrastructure Essential to Safer Roads Worldwide - The CityFIX

Georgia Mom Convicted of Vehicular Homicide For Crossing Street With Kids

Prosecuting the Victim, Absolving the Perpetrators