Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Protecting the vulnerable from bullies

Many advocates for walking and cycling demand dedicated infrastructure, such as Steve Patterson in Saint Louis. Others, like Hans Monderman and Ben Hamilton-Baillie, advocate removing infrastructure and barriers, based on studies showing that speed - and crashes - are reduced when signals and pavement markings are removed.

Based on a shallow understanding of Monderman's work, I would be tempted to conclude that Patterson has the perfect pedestrian-friendly environment. The pedestrian spaces are so well-blended with the car spaces that you can't see them at all! On a slightly less shallow understanding, I'd be tempted to conclude that the emperor has no clothes, and that Monderman's methods are a sham. So which is it?

On a deeper level, these understandings are both true and not true. Transport the Sam's Club parking lot from Saint Louis to Drachten (kind of like a reverse Cloisters), and it would be a heck of a lot safer. Drop Monderman's famous roundabout at the intersection of I-44 and Big Bend, and you'd have to call in the Red Cross. The physical form is not what makes the most difference.

What it comes down to is protecting the vulnerable from bullies. You may have caught the recent Times article about the health consequences of bullying - both for the bully and the victim. Well, the bullies aren't just in the schools. They're everywhere that they're allowed to be. Everywhere that there are power imbalances, and nothing to counter them. They're definitely on the roads - anyone disagree?

So how do we protect vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists? Tune in next time to find out.

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