Monday, June 6, 2016

“No one would design an urban roadway like this today”--Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Davis

On Friday, the Albuquerque Journal ran a front page story "New Mexico is No. 1 in pedestrian deaths". Sadly, the Journal seemed to swallow the standard line that this is due to drunkenness and jaywalking. Its as if the Journal is so inside the prevailing paradigm of "car is king" that it does not even ask if there are issues other than blaming the dead. For example, infrastructure design.

Certainly substance abuse is endemic in some parts of the Duke City and is a major problem as inebriated people walk or drive into each others paths. Likewise so-called jaywalking is a problem, but in part because we have built the infrastructure on the scale of fast cross city car travel rather than on the measure of where people live and where they may want to walk to their nearby destinations. We might as well post No Trespassing signs for those on foot on our urban rights of way. Albuquerque Councilor Pat Davis, quoted in the LA Monitor, nails the elephant in the room: no one would design streets this way if pedestrian (or bicyclist) safety were really crucial. I am sure that James Anderson, Roy Sekreta, Matt Trujillo, and others would agree, if they were alive to comment.

Indeed, anyone who has spent any time in the Duke City, Santa Fe, or even Los Alamos knows that we design major arterials, including  Central Avenue in Albuquerque, Trinity Drive in Los Alamos, and Cerrillos, St. Michaels, or St. Francis in Santa Fe with wide, fast multilane features to facilitate motor vehicle movement with minimal delays--even in dense urban areas. Furthermore, the pedestrian safety features that the DOT adds to the design are often built at intervals that do not interfere with the vehicular level of service measures that are so critical to ensure that motorists can scurry back and forth between destinations in the ever sprawling American cityscape. NMDOT's refusal to add a crosswalk to NM 502 by the swimming pool on the east side of Los Alamos is an example. Likewise, fast speed limits ensure that anyone hit is likely to die while the wide "Stroad" profiles ensure small figures like bikers and peds are hard to see. See figure below for lethality vs speed.

From Literature Review on Vehicle Travel Speeds and Pedestrian Injuries, NHTSA
True human safety in our cities will only result from major changes in urban design. We cannot count on people slowing down when the roads beckon for speed. Instead, we need to engage in traffic calming so the road defines the speed rather than hanging useless signs that conflict with design. Vision Zero, if it is to be implemented, means redesigning roads so that they slow things down so that the inevitable crashes that result from human nature are not fatal. How that works with the ever present urge to sprawl our cities and pander to Level of Service is a good question.

Ain't it nice to ride in the Country?
Finally, months after surgery, I am actually getting my hind end out on the road again.
Nice, quiet roads. Fortunately.

Excerpted from Streetsblog, where  Bill Lindeke talks about St. Paul, MN:
Finding the Political Will to Fix “Four-Lane Death Roads” 

"...The key to a “vision zero” policy will be in making exactly the kinds of trade-off decisions that I’ve described here. A commitment to the safety of urban streets needs to say that no amount of automobile efficiency is worth the lives of people like Elizabeth Dunham, who was simply trying to cross the street. No amount of increased speeds are worth running over a kid like 11-year-old Bikram Phuyel, who was hit by a driver while crossing Rice Street to get to school in 2014. No amount of LOS improvement is worth the life of Kunlek Wangmo, hit by a turning driver while crossing St. Clair Avenue with her husband by West 7th Street last year. Or Shelby Kokesch, who was killed while walking her mother from the History Center across Kellogg Boulevard earlier this year. The list goes on… “Vision Zero” needs to start focusing on these kinds of difficult street design changes, and road diets are the least expensive, most effective option on the table..."

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