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Sunday, November 2, 2014

Speed Kills Pedestrians

The other day, I was standing in front of a young man in the airport making small talk with another passenger.  He was bragging about being pulled over by a police officer for going well over the speed limit.  He said he was 'definitely speeding' - going 120 mph down the highway.  All I could think was - he must not have children yet.  

The next day, my friend Kelly, sent this article written by Jay Walljasper which has so many great facts about the current state of walking in the US.  I found much of this information directly applicable to the concerns I have in Nashville.


If you care about sidewalks the going in Nashville is slow, slow, slower than slow. I was warned about this and am prepared for the long haul.  

When you care passionately about walkers and your goal is to bring high quality well designed sidewalks to Nashville it is pretty easy to get disheartened.  This month marks 1 year of Shade Parade Nashville.  I have written 215 posts about sidewalks and walkability, had multiple meetings, emailed more than I can count, hosted a public meeting regarding Bowling Av, volunteer at a farmer's market once a month, been interviewed for blogs and newspapers, then hosted the mayoral candidate coffee on walkability, won best community organizer from The Scene, and lastly held Pedestrian Paradise - an art bombing of a park in honor of Walk Nashville Month.  Phew!  I can honestly say I have devoted many many many hours to this goal.  It has been a whirlwind of fun…but I have NOT ONE NEW FOOT OF SIDEWALK FOR MY EFFORTS.  NOT A SINGLE ONE! 


One issue that has come up lately in conversations is an addition to my focus…maybe we should try to find a less expensive way to make it better to walk in Nashville.  Should I add a reduction of speed for drivers on key streets lacking sidewalks?  For example, if you are walking on the side of the road and the cars are whooshing by at 40 mph the level of comfort you have is certainly much less than if they were traveling 25mph and for very good reasons as you will read below.  The article Kelly sent had me thinking this may be a viable way to move towards my goal of making Nashville a walking city…

If streets are unmarked in Nashville, the speed limit is 30mph.  My street, which is literally 2 blocks long and lacks sidewalks is 30mph.  We have a parade of walkers going by at all times.  It is a very active neighborhood.  But why 30mph?  Does anyone really need to go 30mph on a street 2 blocks long?  

Bowling Av, the road my neighbor Trish Mixon and I have been campaigning to complete the sidewalk on, is 40 mph!  It runs straight through a residential neighborhood and has a very narrow cow path running along it bordered by ditches.  Does it really need to be 40? 

 According to Jay Walljasper, who recently wrote 'How to Restore Walking As A Way Of Life', pedestrians are killed:

  • 5 percent of the time when struck by a car traveling 20 mph
  • 37-45 percent of the time when struck by a car traveling 30 mph
  • 83-85 percent of the time when struck by a car traveling 40 mph

If we are not, as a city, going to provide the infrastructure that distances pedestrians from vehicles, maybe we can lower speed limits on roads that lack sidewalks.  This way, we can at least provide a modicum of safety to our pedestrians.  The death rate jumps substantially with every 10mph increased in speed.  This provides very concrete and sobering proof that we, as a city, should consider reducing speeds on select streets.  

Do you agree?


From the same excellent article: 

Put Pedestrians First. “Every city should have a by-law of one sentence stating: “In this city, pedestrians come first,” declares Penalosa. “Everyone is a pedestrian at some point during the day, even if you are just walking from your parking space. So everyone has a stake in Vision Zero.”

I encourage each and every one of you to PAY ATTENTION to the pedestrians in your neighborhood.  We give 1/3 of our public land to vehicles.  What have we given to our pedestrians?  

Write to your Council person and call Public Works with all questions, concerns and praise.  

Most importantly, ask your favorite mayoral candidate if they are going to PUT PEDESTRIANS FIRST.


How to Restore Walking as a Way of Life
By Jay Walljasper on Oct 15, 2014 |

As the old saying goes, speed kills. Two landmark studies, one from the US and one from the UK, found that pedestrians are killed:

  • 5 percent of the time when struck by a car traveling 20 mph
  • 37-45 percent of the time when struck by a car traveling 30 mph
  • 83-85 percent of the time when struck by a car traveling 40 mph.

In light of these findings, it’s scary to realize that traffic on many if not most American roads travels closer to 40 mph than 20 mph.

“If we could do one switch to make safer streets it would be to reduce car speeds to 20 mph,” says Bricker, “which would reduce pedestrian fatalities by 90 percent.”
Many experts think it’s not as simple as changing the speed limits. Charlie Zegeer, project manager at the University of North Carolina’s authoritative Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC) says, “Research shows that lowering a speed limit doesn’t work to slow traffic– it’s the roadway design that affects the speed.”


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