Critical Thinking is an ongoing series highlighting the work of architecture and urbanism thinkers from around the internet. In each entry I recommend a few of my favorite recent pieces.
(Header image: a sea of bicycles in Venice Beach at a CicLAvia event in March 2017)
This week, as a follow-up to the previous post on “truck control” I’m highlighting discussions of safety for pedestrians and bicyclists in our cities. There’s never a bad time to talk about how to make our streets safer spaces for everyone, but since the national conversation has already moved past the recent vehicular attack in New York, and on to even bigger tragedies and the latest political firestorms, it’s worth taking a moment to shift back to issues of safe streets.
First up, a couple reminders that the terror on our streets most often comes in the form of impatient or irresponsible drivers. Here are two of the most egregious recent examples from here in Los Angeles:
Streetsblog LA reports on a pedestrian who was killed in a Venice crosswalk. The victim was hit with such force that he was reportedly thrown 30 feet, and yet LAPD and the LA Times perpetuate victim-blaming, describing the victim as “walking into traffic.”
More recently, The Eastsider (among others) reports on an 11-year old girl who was killed and four others who were injured at a taco stand in Boyle Heights when an out of control driver slammed into parked cars that jumped the curb and hit the pedestrians. This is sadly reminiscent of another incident in 2016 when a driver crashed their car into a different Boyle Heights taco stand, killing one man and injuring nine others.
Unsurprisingly, I wasn’t the only one thinking about safe streets in the aftermath of the New York attack. Here are just a few of the many examples:
At CityLab, Laura Bliss makes a clear argument that “Vehicle Attacks Are Not Inevitable” and, separately, she documents examples of other cities that have made great strides in making city centers safe for pedestrians and bicyclists.
On a similar note, Justin Davidson in New York magazine suggests that the city could have done more to protect the victims of the attack.
Dezeen outlines multiple strategies that Caroline Samponaro of Transportation Alternatives suggests to make New York City streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.
The day after the attack, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand introduced a bill to fund traffic barriers to protect pedestrians and bicyclists in cities throughout the country. A similar bill had been introduced in the House a month before.
Even the data journalists at FiveThirtyEight got in on the action, making the argument that terrorism prevention (if done well) can also be good urban design.
Of course, there is one foolproof way to make our streets safer for everyone, as Transportation Alternatives’ Jessie Singer points out at BuzzFeed: ban cars. (Yes, seriously.)
Do you know of someone we should feature on Critical Thinking? Send your recommendations to firstname.lastname@example.org.