sam's notes

notes on government, sports and popular culture

Saturday, December 04, 2004

So the Triad is rated dangerous for pedestrians. As a veteran Greensboro pedestrian, who has been walking and cycling around this city for 16 years, I had to check it out and see if it was really that bad. I personally have found Greensboro to be a very walkable community.

My problem with Mean Streets,, the report issued by the Surface Transportation Policy Project, is it places responsibility for pedestrian safety on everyone but the pedestrian.

Granted, a lot of pedestrians die in this country:

"A total of 51,989 pedestrians have died over the ten years from 1994 to 2003. In raw numbers, pedestrian fatalities have declined over this period by approximately 12.8 percent. This is good news, except when you consider that the rates of walking have declined over this period by approximately 12.8 percent."

Of course, the problem is funding:

"STPP's analysis shows that the states are not investing enough of their federal transportation dollars to protect people who walk....No state spends more than 2.5 percent of their federal transportation funds on sidewalks, crosswalks, traffic calming, speed humps, multi-use paths or safety programs for pedestrians or cyclists."

But the problem there is the only place where those expenditures are feasible are streets where it's already safe to walk. Besides, a sidewalk doesn't do a whole lot of good if some nut jumps the curb and nails you. Yes, that happens, but now you're talking about idiocy behind the wheel, a problem no one knows how to solve.

The report also doesn't provide any context to complement the numbers on pedestrian deaths. I find it hard to believe that all these deaths were exclusively the fault of drivers. Were the pedestrians drunk? Jaywalking? (We have laws against that in this city, you know.) Walking down the wrong side of the road at night wearing a black shirt? Trying to cross Wendover Avenue at rush hour?

But here's what gets me: To help improve the situation, transportation agencies should "promote walking by emphasizing the public health, economic development and transportation benefits of walking, including more focused attention and greater resource commitments to encourage people of all ages to walk more."

Are they kidding? A person could get killed.


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