Thursday, June 16, 2016

Albuquerque Journal Misses Major Point in Discussion of Pedestrian Risk

Editor, The Albuquerque Journal

The Journal, in its 6-15 editorial, somewhat missed the point on pedestrian safety in New Mexico. Like the recent Journal article on the same topic, it omits discussion of the relationship between road and highway design and pedestrian risk.

Substance abuse is certainly part of the problem, but not the entire picture.  Our infrastructure is designed for fast car travel. Albuquerque Councilor Pat Davis said it best:  no one would design streets this way if pedestrian safety were really crucial.

We design major arterials (i.e., Central Avenue) with wide, fast multilane features, even in dense urban areas, to facilitate motor vehicle movement with minimal delays across our ever sprawling cities. Features such as crosswalks are often not built for pedestrian convenience on the scale of walking, but at intervals that minimize loss of vehicular level of service. Speed kills: a 40 mph impact will kill most pedestrians while at 20 mph, most will live. So why are speeds (and design speeds; meant to imply that, Steve) often set at close to 40 mph? To make matters worse, wide road profiles and busy traffic mean small figures like pedestrians are hard to spot.

Vision Zero means redesigning roads so that they are forgiving to mistakes. VZ slows things down such that the inevitable crashes that result from human error are not fatal. How that works with the urge to sprawl our cities is a good question.

Finally, suggesting pedestrians be held as accountable for sobriety as motorists must be further justified. Motorists are licensed as they are driving potentially dangerous vehicles. No such requirement is put on people walking around town. Certainly remaining sober enough to cross the street is a good idea, but the comparison must include the two modes capability to do harm to others.


Steve A said...

As Khal well knows, speed limits are arbitrary. Road DESIGN is what determines what speeds people actually drive. Lots of streets posted at 25 actually are DESIGNED to feel "safe" for motorists driving 40. So they DO drive 40.

Tyson White said...

What about speed cameras? Don't you think they can change driver habits?

Khal said...

I think Albuquerque got rid of most of its traffic cameras as a result of driver pressure.