'In the nineteen-tens, when cars were becoming commonplace in the United States, their right to dominate the road was fiercely contested. Newspapers ran articles denouncing drivers for hitting pedestrians, and police sometimes had to rescue such drivers from mobs baying for blood. During the following decade, the number of fatalities per year doubled, reaching thirty thousand in 1929. There were no driving tests, lane markings, traffic lights, or stop signs on streets, which had long been public spaces where children played. Drunk adults drove. Children drove, too. Cars killed thirteen hundred people in New York alone in 1929--still a record for the city. The majority of victims in New York City, then as now, were pedestrians. Grassroots protest movements coalesced, their leaders arguing that the speed and power of cars foretold a public-health crisis--a point driven home by posters of mothers holding lifeless children. But the automotive industry had a better-funded counter-campaign to make high body counts acceptable to the public.
'As the historian Peter Norton writes in his book “Fighting Traffic,” starting in the nineteen-twenties, the National Automobile Chamber of Commerce, the leading lobbying group for car manufacturers, persuaded editors to publish its pseudo-statistical “news reports” on car crashes, which spread the idea that “jaywalkers”–a pejorative for people from rural areas who didn’t know how to navigate city streets–were responsible for their own injuries and deaths. Auto clubs sponsored street shows in which jaywalkers were lampooned by clowns and convicted in mock trials held by children. This industry campaign helped to bring about what Norton calls a “social reconstruction of the street,” in which pedestrians were taught to accommodate cars, not the other way around. A new school of urban designers, called highway engineers, refashioned cities to push pedestrians and cyclists further to the margins. Meanwhile, media coverage of car crashes grew less critical of drivers, and a sense of fatalism began to envelop the consequences of traffic collisions, which are typically called “accidents,” suggesting that no one is to blame and nothing can be changed. (Plane crashes are not described in the same way.) By century’s end, cars had grown progressively larger, better.
Some of the proposed ideas in the article are good. Some are not. I think the S curves on residential streets would cause more issues than they’d solve. Likewise, the tree islands in the multi lane streets will decrease visibility.
I didn’t like how the author referred to these incidents as “traffic violence”. “Violence” tends to imply intent.
All in all, I think lowering the speed limits in the city and actually enforcing it every once in awhile would probably do as much to slow down traffic as all the street redesign.
I was taught about pedestrian and traffic safety at 5 years old. I walked a mile to and from kindergarten with my 7 year old sister or my mom across one busy street. By 11 years old, I was delivering newspapers on my bike on a busy street. It was part of everyday life. No kid I knew or knew of was hit by a car… we were all taught to avoid that.
It is sad the kids in this article were hit by cars but what and when were the parents teaching them?
My brother and I were both taught to be extremely careful/cautious when dealing with traffic, but that didn’t prevent him from being hit by a car when he was in 8th grade. He was waiting to cross the street, and when he saw a car signal that it was going to turn at the side street prior to the crosswalk, he assumed that it was safe.
Unfortunately, the driver kept going straight, and hit my brother before he was able to clear the crosswalk. He was tossed to the curb, where he hit and lacerated his chin, but–luckily–he had no other injuries. A neighbor witnessed the accident, walked my bloodied brother home, and confirmed my brother’s account of the collision.
A sidelight of the story is that when he read the police report, my father realized that the driver was one of the guys working at the counter of the auto parts place where we used to go. Others urged my father to sue the driver, but that guy had no insurance and my father knew that “Clarence” had six kids. He didn’t want to potentially take food out of the mouths of those kids, so he left Clarence alone and let the legal system deal with him for driving w/o insurance.
From that incident, I learned to never assume that a directional signal will actually predict the path of a vehicle.
I spent 44 years as a faculty member on a university campus. I didn’t have a problem with the mixture of automobiles and pedestrians. In my last years of employment, the real danger was from students on their smartphones, walking along and talking or texting and running into anyone that got in their way. Campus sidewalks and building hallways weren’t safe from these students on their mobile devices.
A Dutch traffic engineer studied traffic-calming tactics, such as roundabouts, and found they make streets safer; he hypothesizes that they draw drivers’ attention to their driving.
I disagree. We call storms and earthquakes violent.
You were taught to stay away from cars, not that they should stay away from you. The point is that streets used to be for people, now they’re for cars, everyone else beware.
10 years someone turned right, right next to me on my bicycle - how was I supposed to avoid that? It was just past a T intersection that had a stop sign for him, not for me, so he had to have seen me go through the intersection seconds before.
He probably did not see you. People often miss what they are not prepared for. IMO that’s the major safety problem with motorcycles. People aren’t expecting riders and miss them, even big bikes. I think that’s why motorcyclists drive so fast, especially on the highway. They are trying to get away from inattentive car drivers.
Also, I think a major problem today is that traffic is so fast, even on roads with lower speed limits. It even occurs in residential neighborhoods.
I see that all too often. A few days ago, well after the light for me had turned green, I was just about to make a left turn when an older cyclist cut across my path, no more than 8 feet in front of me. He went through a red light–several seconds after it had turned red for him–and if I hadn’t hesitated before making my turn, I probably would have hit him.
He did give me a sheepish/I’m sorry facial expression, but it was still very annoying to have been put in that situation because of his reckless behavior.
That’s before we had sidewalks and more cars. Streets were once for horses, too. Streets are for cars… sidewalks are for pedestrians…. Bike lanes for bikes, etc. Supposedly, traffic is supposed to give 3’ of clearance to joggers, bikers, etc when they encounter them on the roadway, however that isn’t always even possible on a two lane street. If I was a jogger or a biker (I am), I’d avoid busy streets. We have several non motorized trails. I usually avoid traffic altogether. I’m not sure everyone can do the same, depending on location. It seems silly to jog on the edge of a heavily trafficked street in the same town that has a 23 mile long dedicated pedestrian/bike trail running through it. But some people still do.