Sunday, February 19, 2006

Pedestrian safety, cont'd

We still don't know what happened yesterday when apparently an out-of-control car turned the innocent scene of a Girl Scout cookie vending table into a nightmare, but it's a good sign that there's no news of death or serious injury.

The cluster of pedestrian fatalities and injuries that we've seen in Chapel Hill might be seen as freakish bad luck. But I don't think it is. As Peter White said, around the country cities that want to be "walkable" are running smack into the deeply entrenched mentality that cars come first.

The D.C. area is having the same problems and paying the price in human lives.

Walking is by far the most dangerous form of travel in America, according to federal accident data, and that is especially true in Fairfax County. Along much of its 2,700 miles of roadways, designed to channel torrents of commuter traffic, is a no-man's land of missing sidewalks, shabby grass and dirt paths, and unregulated intersections.

In New York City, they're trying to rethink traffic priorities:

"Livable Streets: A New Vision for New York," takes aim at New York's "auto-centric" grid by challenging the city, and in particular, the traffic planners at the Department of Transportation, to rethink how people use the city, and to what end.

Pedestrians outnumber car-commuters in Manhattan by more than seven to one. So how come our streets are largely devoted to motor vehicles? "Other cities have begun to measure the performance of their streets in terms of walkability or bike-ability," notes Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. "Here in New York, we're still measuring by how many potholes we've filled or the 'vehicular level of service,'"—i.e., how many cars can cram down a street at any given time.

This video from the Project for Public Spaces shows some ways to think outside the car.

UPDATE: Here's what happened. But why did it happen?

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