5 modes
August 22, 2016, 2:58 pm
Filed under: density, streets, Transit | Tags: , , , , , , ,


who owns the street?
January 4, 2015, 3:09 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,
I recently saw a guy in an oversize pickup almost hit a girl while turning a corner. He yelled at her – watch where you’re going, you’ll get yourself killed – in his mind it was her fault. Some of us onlookers yelled back at him and he drove off. He wasn’t used to not getting his two tonne way.
Below is a history of what it used to be like: manslaughter charges, the driver responsible not the pedestrian, streets for multiple uses, fatalities a public issue. Car lobbies changed all that and might became right and today we have bullies in a playground.

It wasn’t always like this. Browse through New York Times accounts of pedestrians dying after being struck by automobiles prior to 1930, and you’ll see that in nearly every case, the driver is charged with something like “technical manslaughter.” And it wasn’t just New York. Across the country, drivers were held criminally responsible when they killed or injured people with their vehicles.


“If you ask people today what a street is for, they will say cars,” says Norton. “That’s practically the opposite of what they would have said 100 years ago.”


“If a child is struck and killed by a car in 2012, it is treated as a private loss, to be grieved privately by the family,” Norton says. “Before, this stuff was treated as a public loss – much like the death of soldiers.” Mayors dedicated monuments to the victims of traffic crimes, accompanied by marching bands and children dressed in white, carrying flowers.


Norton explains that in the automobile’s earliest years, the principles of common law applied to crashes. In the case of a collision, the larger, heavier vehicle was deemed to be at fault. The responsibility for crashes always lay with the driver.


The industry lobbied to change the law, promoting the adoption of traffic statutes to supplant common law. The statutes were designed to restrict pedestrian use of the street and give primacy to cars. The idea of “jaywalking” – a concept that had not really existed prior to 1920 – was enshrined in law.

The current configuration of the American street, and the rules that govern it, are not the result of some inevitable organic process. “It’s more like a brawl,” says Norton. “Where the strongest brawler wins.”

The Invention of Jaywalking, The forgotten history of how the auto industry won the right of way for cars, Sarah Goodyear

Germans walk more
October 4, 2012, 12:40 am
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It is true that Americans tend to inhabit lower density regions than people do in Europe, but as a study by transportation researcher Ralph Buehler and colleagues found, Germans who live in lower density regions travel by car about as much as Americans living in areas that are five times denser. Germans walk more for a range of reasons: better walking facilities, better connections with transit, better transit (which itself encourages more walking), stronger financial incentives (e.g., higher gas prices), better land-use decisions, and because it’s safer to walk in Germany than in the United States.

Tom Vanderbilt, Walking In America, Slate



Joel Meyerowitz
July 14, 2012, 5:56 pm
Filed under: Cities, streets | Tags: , , ,

at the back of the line
July 3, 2011, 10:05 pm
Filed under: betaCITY, Cities, streets | Tags: ,

Health and happiness found when streets are used for more than just cars:  walking, biking, commerce, social life.  Makes sense to me, but if you understand how American planners think – or don’t – it’s going to be a steep and daunting climb to this new better definition of the city.

From a post by Alex Marshall:

In center cities, we need to put drivers at their appropriate place in the urban hierarchy – which is quite frankly, at the back of the line. We need to not only change physical boundaries and traffic signals, we need to change legal boundaries to make drivers more liable for the harm they can do with their heavy, steel instruments.
It’s no accident that our sister global cities – London, Singapore, Frankfurt, Zurich, etc – are making these changes. They are finding that a city more oriented around walking, biking and transit is more desirable place to live and work. And that becomes part of a city’s appeal, its competitive edge.

Drivers in the Urban Hierarchy, Alex Marshall, Car Clash: Europe VS the US:  Europeans are working hard to discourage drivers, cars and parking in their cities:  Why is American city planning different? New York Times