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More “Nervous” Drivers Are Exactly What’s Needed

The deaths of two pedestrians and a bicyclist in quick succession in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood have local street safety advocates demanding reforms and the mayor promising swift action.

A vision for a safer Forbes Avenue has been advanced following the death of Susan Hicks near the University of Pittsburgh. Image: Bike PGH
After Susan Hicks was killed by a driver while biking near the University of Pittsburgh, this concept for a safer Forbes Avenue is gaining momentum. But a writer at the Post-Gazette thinks people walking and biking are the problem. Image: Bike PGH
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So naturally a crack reporter had to interject that, hey, pedestrians sometimes break traffic rules!

A recent Pittsburgh Post-Gazette piece by Ed Blazina adopts the perspective of a Port Authority bus driver who complains people on foot "create the greatest hazard." Patrick Miner at Network blog Rebuilding the Rust Belt says Blazina has done a masterful job illustrating the mindset that leads us to accept these deaths:

Disregard the overwhelming number of heavy machines (cars) with non-professional drivers holding smart phones, speeding dangerously on Forbes and Fifth. Forget the Public Works Department, the Port Authority, and PennDOT who’ve thus far neglected – grossly – to create alternatives to driving through the busy corridor. Don’t blame the universities for failing to institute and enforce a slow school zone through Oakland, where thousands of people cross the streets during rush hour.

No, the problem – the “hazard” – is all those damn people.

Blazina also wonders, "if these perils of the traffic nightmare in Oakland make professional Port Authority bus drivers nervous, imagine what those conditions can do to regular motorists."

But that's exactly what anyone operating a heavy machine on crowded streets should feel, says Miner:

People driving motor vehicles – having the unique capacity to kill – ought to be nervous. They should be concerned about killing someone if they don’t slow down and pay attention.

Instead, the family, friends, and colleagues of Susan Hicks are paying for the gross negligence of those blocking an immediate reconfigure of Fifth and Forbes through Oakland.

We can thank Ed Blazina for feeding the windshield worldview that enables city, state, and university officials to sit on their bloody hands.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Cyclelicious recaps an alarming new study that compares air pollution risks faced by bike commuters to those faced by drivers. Walkable Jenkintown makes the case for public financing of sidewalks. And Grist shares six big takeaways from the climate talks in Paris.

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