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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

People on Foot = People on Bikes = People in Cars = People

People on Foot = People on Bikes = People in Cars = People




A reoccurring complaint heard, when advocating for sidewalks, is that pedestrians need to learn the rules of the road & stop jaywalking.  In addition, I hear that bikers are frustrating/dangerous/annoying because they, too, don't follow the rules of the road.  Recently, someone said to me that bikes should not be on our public roadways because they 'scare her'.  

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Sail before steam!
In regards to right-of-way, pedestrians have it over bicycles which have it over cars.  

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I have also heard that bikes and pedestrians should not be allowed in the road 'because they don't pay for them' as they are not contributing to the gas tax in Tennessee.  This argument is particularly insulting.  I would venture to guess that only the most die-hard bicyclist/pedestrian is also car-less.  Most people are still contributing to the gas tax in some fashion.  So, let's let these ideas go...

There is a list-serve in Nashville (walking and biking in Nashville - google group) where I read this idea of 'People on Foot = People on Bikes = People in Cars = People'.  While we wait (and wait) for our city to commit to true walkability, please know that our roads are PUBLIC.  Meaning, that walkers, bicycles and vehicles all have the right to use this public space.  


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In addition, some of the poor behaviors of walkers and bicyclist are directly related to very low design standards on the infrastructure we have been given.  For example, Nashville has a disproportionate amount of superblocks - in essence, incredibly long blocks with few safe crossing options.   If you are on one side - you may not choose to go all the way to the intersection to cross if where you need to go is across the street.  

In addition, our intersection are often of really poor quality for walkers - they feel unsafe.  So, walking to get to the intersection, to then double back, when it feels less safe drives a lot of jay-walking behaviors.  I imagine it is similar for bicyclist.  

The author of the list-serve comment asked that, while we wait for our infrastructure to improve, People on Foot = People on Bikes = People in Cars = People.  Makes sense.  I like it!  






2 comments:

  1. I like the reminder that we're all in the mix together. But this equation is too simple to describe the reality of pedestrians and cyclists and vehicles using the same spaces. When we incorporate a risk modifier (*risk), the model breaks down. While we may all be out there together as people, bodies in cars don't equal bodies on foot or bodies on bikes. Even when we have equal access, maybe especially so, togetherness isn't the same as equality.

    We can all share the same space, but the assignment of risk is dramatically different when all those bodies are in the space together and a percentage of them are flesh and bone and another percentage is surrounded by thousands of pounds of metal and glass. A moment of inattention while walking/cycling = stubbed toe or road rash. A moment of inattention in a car = a potentially very ugly work-energy equation (where impact force rises exponentially with increasing speed). The potential for catastrophic consequences is not the same in these scenarios. Not to mention the troubling and pervasive perception of invincibility as we continue to choose to drive bigger and faster vehicles.

    These ideas are really embodied in the necessity for intentionally designed infrastructure as an acknowledgement that pedestrians and cyclists require protected spaces. Everyone is better off with intentionally designed spaces; we can share more easily this way. So, coming back full circle... Making cars and bodies and bikes equivalent may be appealing from the perspective of consensus, but it does a disservice to the realities on the street and to the most vulnerable members of these populations.

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  2. I whole heartedly agree! In Nashville, we are really starting at the bottom on a number of levels...for example, many believe that cars should be the SOLE owner of the road. This post is a reminder that the road is a PUBLIC SPACE. It was never meant to be only for cars but, admittedly, it would be a mighty improvement to give walkers and bikers their proper (read: safe) place by designing and implementing high quality sidewalks and bike lanes.

    What I also mean by Nashville starting at the bottom is that we just do not have decent infrastructure (we average 1/4 of a mile of sidewalk, on one side of the road, for every mile of roadways!). Unfortunately, the city planned poorly with prior & continued growth - it did not insist on putting in infrastructure at time of development for walkers or bikers so many do have to 'share the road' at this time. Walkers and bikers have no choice at the moment. This post is a reminder of these facts and that pedestrians are PEOPLE who ALSO have the right to be in the road if that is all that the city has provided.

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