How less traffic led to more deaths during the pandemic – WHY

“I want people to know when you hear a crash or a crash, don’t just think it’s just, ‘Oh, it happens.’ No, they are people,” she said. “His body was mutilated. It was so bad.

The story is not easy for her to tell, even after all this time, even after telling it so many times.

She calls what is happening a kind of violence: the violence of circulation. It’s a term I’ve never heard before, but I can relate to it by hearing his family’s story. The unsympathetic and uncompromising physics of one and a half tons of metal and glass hitting the human body at high speed.

Byrd saw it, and she can’t help seeing it.

She has the citizen app, which tells her whenever there is an accident nearby. Her friends tell her to delete it because every ping gives her the same sinking feeling, knots in her stomach.

“It’s hard for people, you know, it’s just a feeling you get, like I’m having chills, and it’s just a whole thing that takes over your body when you think about it,” a- she declared.

Byrd helps run a support and advocacy group for people who have lost loved ones on the road. Like her, many of them never thought about our road designs before the tragedy that struck them.

The “straight”

Daniel Herriges is an urban planning expert and editor of Strong Towns, a website and advocacy organization.

“There’s a kind of truism that the ultimate mark of an ideology’s success is not even being recognized as an ideology, being as invisible as, you know, water is to a fish” , did he declare. “And I think that’s what happened with some of the assumptions of the automotive age.

It talks about the fact that we don’t really think about bad road design in our day-to-day life. He calls these thoroughfares by ways like Roosevelt Boulevard “stroads”, a portmanteau of streets and roads. The Stroads, he said, are like the futons of highway design.

“The same way a futon is an uncomfortable couch that turns into an uncomfortable bed, a strode is bad for being a street and it’s bad for being a road. It’s that middle ground that doesn’t matter. good,” he said. “The idea is that we have two different functions for these public roads in cities, and we don’t often distinguish between them very well.”

A road, as Herriges uses the term, should look like a highway. Cars are moving fast. With entry and exit ramps and gentle curves, no intersections. A street is like your slow neighborhood lane, lined with alleys leading to people’s homes or restaurants and cafes.
The Stroads, the kind of unholy combination of the two, end up being pseudo-highways in cities. Where speed meets traffic lights and stops. Whether you live in a city, small town or in the countryside, you probably have a chance. You can tell you’re at one, Herriges said, if you don’t feel comfortable walking next to it or God forbid, try crossing it.

“They’re ubiquitous because everyone uses the same engineering manuals. And there’s a kind of conventional wisdom in the traffic engineering profession that emerged in the early years of mass motor vehicle ownership,” he said. “[In] the 1930s, 1940s cars become this ubiquitous thing that everyone in the middle class owns and engineers become convinced that they can redesign the city and redesign our transportation system around this assumption of mass car ownership.

This meant designing streets for one thing: speed.

“The fundamental idea that I think people don’t automatically have is that the purpose of very many streets in our cities shouldn’t be to move cars,” he said. “Cars are allowed there. They move cars, but that is not their basic function.

The organization Daniel works for, Strong Towns, lobbied against the stroad for years before the pandemic, where data shows they accounted for the lion’s share of deaths.

Another advocacy group, Smart Growth America, says not only have they been lamenting for years, but they’ve seen the rise in deaths to come. They knew this would happen if the stride was open, free of traffic that acts as a speed bump.

Speed ​​versus Safety

“When you put your thumb on the scales so well for people trying to get through the community, knowing that there are a lot of people who have to move around, often on foot in this community, it’s a wonder to me that the result is a surprise to everyone,” said Beth Osborne, vice president of Smart Growth America.

I explained to him that the number of road deaths had remained stable on Roosevelt Boulevard after the installation of speed cameras. She says the fact that deaths have remained high speaks to this larger issue with speed itself. Like forgetting to reduce speeding, we have to reduce the speed limit.

“And as a society, we’re not ready to tackle it if you insist on high speeds for your driving pleasure, for your sense or your perceived convenience, then you’ve decided that safety is your lowest priority. . Period,” she said. “It’s just physics.”

His organization is studying pedestrian deaths during the pandemic and why they have increased.

Walking became one of the few things you could do outside your home during lockdown. The problem is that a lot of people went out for the air only to find that their towns or neighborhoods weren’t very walkable.

“So there was interest in walking everywhere,” she said. “But areas that were safer before have remained safer and areas that were less safe before have become much more dangerous.”

She points out, however, that stretches like Roosevelt Boulevard only make up about 15% of the roads, despite accounting for the lion’s share of fatalities. That means, she says, they’re a good place to start.

Byrd, who lost his niece and his niece’s young children, says after this pandemic year where so many people lost loved ones, there might finally be some will to turn things around.

“So the community says, ‘Hey, we need this in our neighborhood now,’ before saying, ‘Oh, we don’t need this,'” she said. “But now he’s hitting home like he hit us nine years ago.”

She hopes more people see what she sees when she watches streets like Roosevelt Boulevard, seeing the true cost of speed. And she continues to advocate for safer streets, speaking to anyone who will listen.

“I haven’t been paid a penny for anything. And I do it because I feel like I have to,” she said. “I have to do this because I know my niece, I know, Samara, Saa’deem, Saa’sean and Saa’mir did not die in vain.”

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