Warning: Windshield Perspective Hazardous to Your Health

Over the past couple of months, we’ve been following a story in Savannah about a crackdown on jaywalking — a crackdown prompted by the death of a tourist who was hit by a car on Oglethorpe Avenue in the city’s historic district. Streetsblog Network member Sustainable Savannah has done a great job of articulating why the jaywalking ticket blitz was an inappropriate and ineffective response to the problem of unsafe streets.

Today, the blog makes the connection between law enforcement’s "windshield perspective," as evidenced by the bias against pedestrians in this case, and public health — specifically, the nation’s weight problem:

watersand51st.pngAnybody going to give this guy a ticket?

[I]n the Savannah Morning News’ Vox Populi comment section, …a reader reported being "so tired of rude, arrogant and selfish pedestrians deliberately stepping in front of my vehicle." Another claimed the presence of pedestrians made Oglethorpe Avenue "one of the scarier streets in Savannah to drive down” and complained about the indignity of having to "drive below the speed limit."…

[T]he sense of entitlement held by these drivers has no doubt been reinforced by the jaywalking crackdown. At the same time, motorists are free to impede pedestrian traffic — not for just moments — but hours or days at a time without fear of police intervention. On Saturday I made the 2.5 mile trip from my home to my office and counted five cars parked on or otherwise blocking sidewalks or crosswalks along the way.

While having to walk around a car parked on a sidewalk or in a crosswalk may be a minor inconvenience for pedestrians (perhaps on par with a motorist having to tap the brakes to allow a pedestrian to cross the street) for citizens with mobility or visual impairments, it’s a different story. Motorists create dangerous situations and impassible obstacles when they choose to park where people need to walk.

A TIME magazine story from this week entitled "Why are Southerners so Fat?" acknowledges the role of deep-fried diets, but also points to physical inactivity, due to poor infrastructure, as a cause. The story’s author notes that many Southern states have "a surprising lack of sidewalks" and this discourages "even the most eager pedestrians." Add insufficient or nonexistent public transportation and the result is "for most people, the best way to get around is by car."

Here in Savannah (or at least the parts of town developed before World War II) we are lucky to have plenty of sidewalks. Still, by vilifying pedestrians and failing to hold motorists accountable, we
have come up with new ways to discourage "even the most eager pedestrians." Continuing down this road could bring serious public safety and public health consequences. At the very least, it will
convince people that "the best way to get around is by car," even when it isn’t.

Also today around the network: The National Journal’s Expert Blog on transportation asks, "How Do We Modernize Transportation for an Unknown Future?" Comments there are limited to the aforementioned experts; you can leave your own ideas in the comments here. The Transport Politic rounds up the current contenders for high-speed rail funds. And The Sustainable Cities Blog looks at bus rapid transit.

  • After a reduction, a jaywalking ticket in Savannah is $54.

    I got a parking ticket in Savannah last year and it was $12. And when I called to say their online payment system wasn’t working, they waived my ticket completely, without my even asking.

    Suggests a wrong set of values, if you ask me, especially considering how Savannah is considered one of the country’s most walkable cities, and the walkable part is stunning and has lots of very nice, ped-accessible businesses.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

To Reduce Pedestrian Fatalities, Focus Enforcement on Cars

|
Today the issue of pedestrian safety has popped up a couple of times on the Streetsblog Network. First, the folks at WalkBike Jersey report that a bill giving pedestrians more protection in the crosswalk has passed the State Assembly and is moving to committee in the Senate: Photo by tomswift46 via Flickr. Under the bill, […]

A Pedestrian Is Killed, So Let’s Ticket — Pedestrians?

|
Earlier this week, Brad posted a piece about a recent pedestrian death pedestrian critically injured by an SUV on 14th Street, asking "Is Death an Appropriate Penalty for Jaywalking?" in which he included some fascinating historical information about how jaywalkers have been demonized over the years. Photo by Poppyseed Bandits via Flickr. In Savannah, that […]

Blaming the Pedestrian, Again

|
Despite the growing national attention to the dangers posed by distracted driving, full accountability for drivers who kill or maim pedestrians while fiddling with electronic devices is likely a long way off. As today’s post from Streetsblog Network member Sustainable Savannah notes, law enforcement officials too often seem to see things from the perspective of […]

A Livable Streets Renaissance in Savannah?

|
The last time we checked in with the folks down at Sustainable Savannah, it was to get an update on the jaywalking ticket blitz that the city was conducting — not exactly evidence of a progressive attitude toward traffic safety. Today, we’ve got better news. Biking in Savannah: the future is looking brighter. Photo by […]

Blaming Cyclists for Dangerous Roads: It Goes Way Back

|
On Bicyclelaw.com yesterday, there was a terrible story out of Canada about a crash involving a reckless motorist and law-abiding cyclists. What was the response to the shocking case of careless driving, which left five bikers gravely injured? The local police initiated a ticket blitz aimed at…cyclists breaking the law (one of the offenses often […]