Safety for Whom?

How has safety been used to alter or maintain asymmetric relations of power?  This is not just a question of who gets to drive and with how much latitude as if the equation is simply car=freedom=equality.  As noted previously, automobility and the freedom it promises needs to be understood as obligation as well.  The system of automobility in the U.s. in many ways demands that one must drive a car.  The disciplining of mobility organized through traffic safety is thus a means of keeping the system running smoothly, even as if often works as a means of keeping systems of social inequality intact. 

-Jeremy Packer, ‘Mobility Without Mayhem’

Yesterday I shared the below map as a means to satisfy the hypothesis: Pedestrian collisions occur more frequently on principal arterial roads in the City of Rockford. 

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From 2006-2015, 81% of all collisions–446 out of 551–occurred on principal arterial roads in the City of Rockford.  

Strong Towns readers are keenly aware of the following design features of principal arterial roads (read: “Stroads”).  Nonetheless, I think it is helpful to visualize the features that characterize our most unsafe roadways in Rockford. 

 South Main Street, looking north from Morgan Street.  IDOT recently completed this roadway project which includes four 12' travel lanes.  12' lanes are wide, especially given that this stretch is in a compact, walkable area of our city and is less than one mile from city center.

South Main Street, looking north from Morgan Street.  IDOT recently completed this roadway project which includes four 12' travel lanes.  12' lanes are wide, especially given that this stretch is in a compact, walkable area of our city and is less than one mile from city center.

 During the South Main reconstruction project, IDOT removed the on-street parking and demolished a tax-producing building so drivers could have ample parking.

During the South Main reconstruction project, IDOT removed the on-street parking and demolished a tax-producing building so drivers could have ample parking.

 Fixed hazardous objects such as utility poles and parked cars are removed from the right-of-way.  This gives drivers a false sense of security, and unduly places a higher risk on pedestrians. 

 Image courtesy of Google.

Image courtesy of Google.

Pictured here is Jefferson Street looking west towards our downtown.  We’ve given drivers an oversupply of travel lanes–four lanes on the bridge–while the annual average daily traffic (AADT) ranges only 6,000-8,00 cars a day.  This communicates to the driver an environment that is frictionless…until friction sets in. 

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These dots are vehicle crashes, not pedestrian crashes.  See the concentration of dots?  153 in ten years.  Here’s what happens when speeding vehicles meet a compact urban environment with minimal setbacks: 

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Among the 3 E’s, I believe that engineering at the municipal level can play a significant role in reducing speed and improving pedestrian safety.   Tomorrow I will share the steps I’ve taken since the above research took place, and also give you some action items that may be helpful for your community.