Blaming the pedestrian won’t solve the problemJanuary 20, 2011
By Stephen Lee Davis
|Walking in the ditch Originally uploaded by Transportation for America to Flickr.
|If this woman got hit by car, it’s probably her fault, right? Photograph by Stephen Lee Davis/Transportation for America.|
We noted on Twitter this morning a story in the USA Today about pedestrian deaths increasing in 2010, halting a decline that had been going on for quite a few years. The USA Today story took the angle offered from the head of a state safety association (Governors Highway Safety Association) that pedestrians are at fault for the increase in deaths. The Washington Examiner, not to be outdone, took some comments from the head of the association to baselessly suggest that more pedestrians are being killed because of the First Lady’s “Let’s Move” campaign to get more people active and walking to stem the obesity epidemic.
That’s right, it has nothing to do with things like 4 -and 6- and 8- lane arterials with no sidewalks and crosswalks a mile apart running through our communities. Or streets built without sidewalks. Or 55 mile per hour speed limits on roads where people need to walk. Or curved right turn lanes that allow cars to make turns at intersections at 30 mph. It has nothing to do with roads that are dangerous by design, leading to thousands of avoidable fatalities every year.
Automatically blaming the pedestrian is shameful and the GHSA should take their time to study the issue more carefully. Pedestrians are dying by the thousands, and it’s not because they’re using an ipod while crossing the street or trying to get more exercise at the First Lady’s urging. It’s because our basic choices about road design have left far too many without a safe place to walk, putting too many pedestrians in harm’s way.
We’d laugh at the GHSA’s silly suggestion, but we’re talking about a crisis that’s resulted in 76,000 deaths in the last 15 years. It’s no laughing matter.
UPDATE: The GHSA told the Atlantic that they were misquoted by the Examiner. They don’t refute a possible link, but they do say they support Michelle Obama’s program, adding that if more people are walking, they need to be aware.
Harsha said her primary concern for pedestrians was the increased use of electronic devices like iPods that can block out sound and make walkers unaware of oncoming traffic. The organization has received anecdotal evidence of pedestrian injuries caused by people walking into traffic.
It’s good they clarified, but it still sounds like they don’t quite grasp the main cause of death for pedestrians: Roads that are dangerous by design and unsafe for pedestrians. “Distracted” pedestrians aren’t the real culprit here.
TBD, a local DC news site, shared the pitch that they got from the GHSA, which is likely where the “Let’s Move” connection originated:
“Why the increase? We don’t really know but speculate that it could be a couple factors. One is the possible increase in distracted pedestrians and distracted drivers. We’ve been focusing on the drivers, but perhaps we need to focus some attention on distracted walkers! Additionally, Mrs. Obama and others have been bringing attention to ‘get moving’ programs, so perhaps pedestrian exposure has increased.”