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The Worst of Pedestrian Safety Month

"Instead of spending the month of October pre-blaming pedestrians for getting hit by cars, these agencies [should] actually do something to improve pedestrian safety."

12:01 AM EDT on October 26, 2023

Sometimes I ask myself, should I do something to mark pedestrian safety month? It is sorta my thing. 

And, to be fair, the idea is not a bad one. This time of year, it starts getting dark really early. And since most pedestrian deaths happen in darkness, the subject does deserve extra attention this time of year. Bad things are happening out there on the roads and for the most part nobody notices.

It’s hard for me to get excited about it, though. Because in practice, the execution is so bad. 

I’m not trying to call out these little police departments specifically, because they’re just doing what they think is right … but it’s a good example of what you can kinda expect all through October. Lots of patronizing, victim-blamey lectures.

Take these:

Click to view the first, second, and third images larger.

I love the one on the far right. Nothing says the US transport system is running like a well-oiled machine quite like needing 11 (!!) pieces of advice to … walk somewhere and not have your internal organs scattered across some nondescript seven-lane suburban thoroughfare. 

These messages demonstrate, in my (informed!) opinion, such a fundamental misunderstanding of the problem. I guess there are maybe SOME people who are out there who are cramming for an exam about how to behave every time they have to walk along the shoulder of some godforsaken dark highway for any number of reasons (but likely, none of them good). But I’m skeptical. People don’t walk in dangerous areas, of which we’ve created infinity, unless they don’t have better options. And those circumstances would likely preclude them from doing things like buying and carrying special visibility garb. 

I’m semi-convinced that the whole point of these messages is just to absolve the messenger of any responsibility. It gets to the point where it’s borderline insulting. You can tell that the assumption is that pedestrians are sorta stupid: “Always follow these three steps to crossing the street (stop, look, listen).” Who comes up with this stuff? Does anyone really believe this is an effective strategy? 

The other thing that’s obvious is the people posting these messages have literally never walked anywhere. It’s a nightmare game of Frogger. The roads are chock full of homicidal maniacs driving 6,000 pound Tahoes, which have a 15 foot forward blind spot. Pedestrians do not stand a chance out there. We could run them through Navy Seal training before we let them catch a late night bus, and in my opinion, it wouldn’t improve their odds a whole lot. Not to mention that many of them ,because of advanced age, or cognitive impairments, or any number of normal everyday human things, may not even be capable of behaving in the idealized way these checklists imagine.

I want to propose that instead of spending the month of October pre-blaming pedestrians for getting hit by cars, these agencies actually do something to improve pedestrian safety. Install a single goddamn pedestrian refuge island; I would be thrilled. If you’re a police department, you could, maybe, for the first time ever, enforce laws that require drivers to yield at crosswalks. (Give them a warning if need be! That’s fine!) Do a road safety audit. Apply for federal funding — which is now available — for Vision Zero work. Aim for the sky! Why not?

Then, next October, come back and tell us what you’ve done to actually make your streets less deadly, and more survivable for the few poor schmucks who are still crazy or desperate enough to have to travel anywhere on foot.

And If you have to scold someone on Instagram, just tell drivers to look for pedestrians and drive slowly! They could really use that message right now.

This essay originally appeared on her Substack, Unpopular Opinions, and is republished with permission.

The post The Worst of Pedestrian Safety Month appeared first on Streetsblog California.

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