Freedom from cars, freedom from sprawl, freedom to walk your city!
City planner Jeff Speck shares his “general theory of walkability” — four planning principles to transform sprawling cities of six-lane highways and 600-foot blocks into safe, walkable oases full of bike lanes and tree-lined streets.
Transforming Transportation: Toward Sustainable Mobility for All
SUBMITTED BY JOSE LUIS IRIGOYEN ON WED, 01/11/2017
Personal cars were a 20th century symbol of prosperity, but in the 21st century, they contribute to three pernicious trends:
- Pollution and Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Globally, about 1.25 million people die each year because of road traffic crashes. Ninety percent of the world’s road fatalities occur in low- and middle-income countries, even though these countries have only about 50% of the world’s vehicles. Half of these global road fatalities occur among the most vulnerable populations: pedestrians, motorcyclists, and cyclists. As if a fatality in itself is not devastating enough, road traffic fatalities cause economic losses to the victim’s family and society: traffic crashes cost countries between 3 and 5% of their GDP.
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No Traffic Calming? City responsible for Road Violence Injuries in Landmark Decision
-“New York City and other municipalities can be held liable for failing to redesign streets with a history of traffic injuries and reckless driving.”
The judge commented: It is known among traffic engineers that straight, wide roads with little interference from pedestrians and other vehicles encourage speeding because drivers feel more comfortable on roadways with those characteristics…traffic calming measures deter speeding because they cause drivers to be more cautious, and that such measures are known to reduce the overall speed on roadways.” The upshot? The jury could conclude that “negligence was a proximate cause of the accident”.
Why We Say ‘Car Accident,’ and Why We Need to Stop
The term suggests fatal crashes are inevitable and beyond our control—they’re not.
The words we use, on some level, simply describe the world we live in. It’s a world in which we’ve surrendered to cars as the primary way to move our fragile bodies around. Accidents will happen.
I think we routinely use language to distance ourselves from the idea that drivers in fatal crashes are killers, because we know that means we could be killers, too. We’re protecting ourselves from the brutal reality that all too quickly, we ourselves could be the ones making an error in judgment, losing control, and destroying people’s lives.
Good progress is being made reducing and preventing car user injuries and now it is time to ensure that similar improvements are realised for those outside the vehicles.
The competitive nature of the car market has seen an increase in protection for those travelling inside the vehicle and this is reflected in the casualty statistics -but the same does not apply to those outside the vehicle. And with current societal trends such as ageing populations, an increasing number of pedestrians and cyclists encouraged by environmental policies, this is an area that authorities such as the European Union are keen to address.
The last 10 years have seen significant reductions in the number of people killed on Europe’s roads. However, while the number of fatalities is decreasing, VRUs have become an increasingly important proportion of the total casualty figures.
Pedestrian advocate Gil Penalosa says a proposed ban on distracted walking with phones is a distraction from the key factors making cities unsafe.
Lowering maximum speed limits in all residential areas to 30 km or less and adding small islands at crosswalks should be considered by politicians to actively address concerns about safety
We must make pedestrians a top priority in every single community
If you design a city to get people walking, then people will do more physical activity. A new global study has found that a well-designed neighbourhood not only keeps people fit but can reduce obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
In fact, in walkable cities, using a car is actually harder than walking, because of the time it takes to park. People living in these kinds of neighborhoods get up to 90 minutes of physical activity per week.
While computers in autonomous vehicles may be infallible, the laws of physics still govern safety. Vehicles will need to be programmed to travel at safe speeds for everyone, especially in urban areas.
Risk of pedestrian death increases with increasing speeds. Image credit: Cities Safer By Design / WRI
Driverless Cars Create Opportunity for a Better City
Safety and moral concerns aside, if done right, autonomous vehicles could help create better cities. Driverless cars require less road space, through reducing inefficiencies or the ability to maneuver within a narrow lane, which in theory could free up street space for pedestrians and cyclists. This leads to the question: What kind of cities will be shaped by an autonomous vehicle future? Ones that are safe and accessible for pedestrians and bicyclists, with high-quality public transport systems? Or the cities once envisioned by architects such as Le Corbusier and described by Jane Jacobs as dominated by the car, rather than built for the people? Just as most cities allowed the “horseless carriage” to take over streets, will cities make the same mistake with the driverless car?
The best way to stop “accidents” is to design better roads.
Urban sprawl, and the unchecked ingress of the automobile into every area of our cities, is clearly the problem. And better infrastructure, designed to make driving more difficult in order to make cites better for everyone, is an obvious solution. But it requires bold decisions……..