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"...To Make Streets Safe, You Must First Make Them Dangerous."
September 5, 2014 8:45 AM   Subscribe

"If you need a sign to tell people to slow down, you designed your street wrong." Going from "Forgiving Highways" to "Self-Explaining Roads": A longitudinal look at the Dutch and American responses to motor vehicle traffic safety.

More articles from Gary Toth available here via the Project for Public Spaces.
posted by resurrexit (55 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

 
Very nice philosophy. Although I'd imagine making the streets more dangerous only for the cars might help more. You might for example delineate pedestrian areas and small lanes with tire shredding spikes that were visible to pedestrians but nearly invisible to drivers behind windscreens.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:05 AM on September 5 [2 favorites]


Making streets where driving fast is either unsafe or impossible sounds great, until you're driving an emergency vehicle or trying to evacuate the neighborhood.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:09 AM on September 5 [4 favorites]


“Never appeal to a man's better nature. He may not have one. Invoking his self-interest gives you more leverage.”

Build the roads so that a speed demon will ding his car lots of times before he hurts anyone, and the speed demon won't speed. Pretty easy to do, too. Narrow lanes. Tight turning radii. Trees and rocks along the edge of the road. Problem solved.

One more reason to love Massachusetts.
posted by ocschwar at 9:09 AM on September 5 [3 favorites]


"...until you're driving an emergency vehicle or trying to evacuate the neighborhood."

I don't have fine-grained statistics on what sort of accidents kill pedestrians, but I suspect that if you look at injuries and deaths because people are driving too fast in residential neighborhoods vs injuries and deaths because emergency vehicles and evacuations aren't occurring fast enough, it's no contest which is killing more people.

Further, shortly before his death back in the noughts, my grandfather was reminiscing about emergency services response in his town on Long Island just outside of Queens, NY. He observed that in the years he was a volunteer firefighter (and he had his state certificate into his 80s), call-outs for the fire department went up something like two orders an order of magnitude, even as the population remained stable, demographics didn't change all that much, and houses became way more fire resistant.

And it was likely that Floral Park's volunteer fire department was going to have to go professional to keep up with that sort of load.

We spend a hell of a lot, both in dollars and in quality of life, chasing "what if"s around emergency response, and then we start calling ambulances for skinned knees. We should re-evaluate that.

[Edit: checked my journal real fast, it was more like 50/year to 500/year]
posted by straw at 9:22 AM on September 5 [12 favorites]


re: Hans Monderman (mentioned in the first link), there are a bunch of videos on youtube about his work on intersections in Drachten, NL.
posted by entropone at 9:33 AM on September 5


If you make driving fast impossible then you'd just replace ambulances with helicopters, improve EMT training, etc. And evacuations are irrelevant anyways.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:37 AM on September 5 [2 favorites]


I would also say that as a cyclist I hate this sort of thing. Usually, in the US, it consists of making neighborhood roads windy and making them not through streets. Sounds great, except:

It eliminates the back roads, so the arterials are the only way to get anywhere.
All of the traffic is pushed to the arterials, so they become huge high speed high traffic roads that are absolutely unbikeable.
As a consequence it becomes impossible to get anywhere on a bike.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:37 AM on September 5 [20 favorites]


I don't have fine-grained statistics on what sort of accidents kill pedestrians

Most DMVs or Depts of Transportation publish yearly Crash Stats (though there is often a data lag of a couple years).

For example here's the 2012 Crash Stats for Minnesota, where I live.

I've scoured a lot of them and the data show that the leading causes are unsafe speed, driver inattention, and failure to yield (this is usually turning into a pedestrian who has the right-of-way while crossing).
posted by entropone at 9:41 AM on September 5 [1 favorite]


Also, should have put this below the fold, but that whole New Urbanization feature on the American Conservative website has some great articles.
posted by resurrexit at 9:43 AM on September 5


Helicopter evacuation is dangerous, they can't land everywhere, and in the US every helicopter rescue comes with a free lifetime of debt.

Also, how are you planning to fight fires?
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:45 AM on September 5


how are you planning to fight fires?

The same way they do all over the world where cities are laid out on a pre-automobile, if not outright medieval, grid?
posted by resurrexit at 9:49 AM on September 5 [14 favorites]


I would also say that as a cyclist I hate this sort of thing.

Yeah, if there's one subject the US has nothing to learn from the Dutch, it's about cycling infrastructure.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 9:52 AM on September 5 [24 favorites]


Ben Hamilton-Baillie gave an excellent talk about shared spaces at the most recent Congress for the New Urbanism. The redesigns made intersections safer for cyclists and pedestrians while increasing automobile throughput. Narrow streets and shared spaces work all across Europe, even in under-planned old cities, where they seem to have solved any issues with emergency vehicles.
posted by abandonedwig at 9:52 AM on September 5 [1 favorite]


If you need a sign to tell people to slow down, you designed your street wrong

Am I nuts or did the picture accompanying that quotation look like they were setting up for road works? It's a temporary mobile sign and there's a trailer right ahead with what looks like those big striped traffic barrels in it. That's usually how you cordon off the area of road you're going to work on, and driving next to a construction zone usually requires you slow down traffic more than usual, temporarily.

You re-empower the person behind the wheel to negotiate the roads with their own judgment, and trust the social fabric to direct the traffic.

Forgive me if I don't put a lot of faith in the judgement of the person behind the wheel. Drivers in North America do dumb shit even on narrow residential streets with roundabouts.
posted by Hoopo at 9:58 AM on September 5 [1 favorite]


Before the Roman came to Rye
Or out to Severn strode,
The rolling English drunkard
Made the rolling English road.

posted by jfuller at 10:03 AM on September 5 [4 favorites]


Every road should be like Lombardi in San Francisco. Nobody speeds on that thing except skateboarders.
posted by Renoroc at 10:03 AM on September 5


Forgive me if I don't put a lot of faith in the judgement of the person behind the wheel. Drivers in North America do dumb shit even on narrow residential streets with roundabouts.

You can pick bones with the theory behind it, but the crash data reveal pretty convincingly that when you design urban streets like highways, they are dangerous. When you design them to share and accommodate multi-modal users, and slow down car speeds, they are a lot safer. Fewer people die.
posted by entropone at 10:06 AM on September 5 [14 favorites]


Do you mean Lombard? Because there's a lot more to that street than that one twisty block.
posted by aspo at 10:08 AM on September 5 [2 favorites]


Methods for reducing traffic injuries and fatalities:

1. Make streets more difficult to drive on

2. Be Dutch
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:10 AM on September 5 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I think the emergency vehicles objection is a canard. The major way of getting intra-urban average journey speeds up is by avoiding stops. Emergency vehicles can already go through red lights, so a slightly lower speed when moving isn't going to make much difference. And even if it cuts the average journey speed from 60 to 30 (which seems unlikely), in urban areas that's going to make a difference of single-digit minutes at most.
posted by Jakob at 10:11 AM on September 5 [5 favorites]


I just brought it up because I've heard several emergency crew members complain about speed bumps for these reasons.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:17 AM on September 5


My dad drives an ambulance (and firetruck) and I'm pretty sure he doesn't slow down for anything unless a rookie's trying to start an IV, much less a speedbump : )
posted by resurrexit at 10:24 AM on September 5


A key difference is that driving education is mandatory in almost all of Europe, the test is long and challenging and the initial failure rate is high. The fact that in the US we find it necessary to put these on roads where they curve, presumably because otherwise drivers wouldn't be able to tell and would plunge into a ravine, doesn't give me much hope. If some appreciable fraction of US drivers can't tell that the road is curving without being hit on the head with it (and you also see permanent flashing light installations added when the curve is sharp) there's no reason to think that they're capable of reading the road in subtler ways.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:43 AM on September 5 [4 favorites]


(straw, I grew up in Floral Park!)

call-outs for the fire department went up something like two orders an order of magnitude, even as the population remained stable, demographics didn't change all that much, and houses became way more fire resistant.

This trend is nation-wide. Fire departments that run EMS will see around 66% of the calls be for EMS, with the majority of the rest emergency services (including automobile accidents). Actual fires, as you indicate, are few in comparison. Cars are indeed safer than they ever were but that has done nothing to address the number of accidents that occur.

I think the Dutch model is very interesting. I've been to Amsterdam and Amstelveen and despite the incredible number of bicycles and pedestrians on the roads it all managed to work. A mix like that in the US would be impossible. But pulling that model off here would require a lot of changes to the infratructure (which is something we tend to ignore until it falls apart) and the way we train drivers. Not impossible, but certainly a tall order.
posted by tommasz at 10:53 AM on September 5 [1 favorite]


The fact that in the US we find it necessary to put these on roads

I suspect those save a lot of lives, especially at night and/or in the rain when it's sometimes hard to tell where the road is no matter how slow you go. Regardless, those are a highway feature, and the Dutch innovations are for urban areas. The first article says:

The Dutch, on the other hand, also applied Forgiving Highways to their highways, and adopted many of the same technology and education campaigns, but they took a very different approach to their built-up areas.

Dutch highways look pretty much like American ones.
posted by echo target at 10:55 AM on September 5 [8 favorites]


You can pick bones with the theory behind it, but the crash data reveal pretty convincingly that when you design urban streets like highways, they are dangerous

I'm not arguing with the data, just that I think there's more to the differences between Dutch and North American driving practices/habits than road design. I can't help but think there's something cultural there, too.
posted by Hoopo at 10:55 AM on September 5


One more reason to love Massachusetts.

IME Massachusetts is a pedestrian nightmare as well. I feel a little better about it if it's also nightmarish for drivers though.
posted by grobstein at 10:56 AM on September 5 [1 favorite]


Is there a kind of suspension that can absorb all of a speed bump at 50 mph? I'm not sure if that requires hydraulic actuators or there's a simpler way to do it. I'm guessing whatever it is, it would be too expensive to fit to emergency vehicles.
posted by crapmatic at 10:57 AM on September 5


Making streets where driving fast is either unsafe or impossible sounds great, until you're driving an emergency vehicle . . .

I suspect that if you look at injuries and deaths because people are driving too fast in residential neighborhoods vs injuries and deaths because emergency vehicles and evacuations aren't occurring fast enough, it's no contest which is killing more people. . . .


If it [re-designing streets to make it difficult to drive fast] will curtail high-speed police chases, I am all for it.
 
posted by Herodios at 11:07 AM on September 5 [1 favorite]


One more reason to love Massachusetts.

I assume you're referring to the rural parts of the state?
posted by gottabefunky at 11:11 AM on September 5


I just brought it up because I've heard several emergency crew members complain about speed bumps for these reasons.

I am a civil engineer who does actually design and implement these things-we are really, really moving away from speed bumps to either narrower streets (using 'bump outs' that provide a neck in the street) that actually make people slow down or putting in slight curves/landscaping that obstruct views just enough to slow people down without actually obstructed views. When we do use a 'speed bump' like design we use either a speed table or a speed cushion. Private parking lots love the things though and they are a huge pain in the ass without being any more effective than the alternatives I linked to.

I would also say that as a cyclist I hate this sort of thing. Usually, in the US, it consists of making neighborhood roads windy and making them not through streets. Sounds great, except:

A strong grid street system is the best for several reasons-connectivity is the key, not just for roads, but all sorts of utilities are SO much easier if you have a grid system. Remember that when you want a house on a cul de sac in a suburb-which is all the developers want to build because they can charge more for the house since everyone is convinced it is the only possible choice to raise a middle class child in safety in this age of terror.
posted by bartonlong at 11:15 AM on September 5 [15 favorites]


IME Massachusetts is a pedestrian nightmare as well. I feel a little better about it if it's also nightmarish for drivers though.

I don't know. Compared to most of the cities in the US I've been in, most of the Boston area is a pedestrian wonderland. Ditto for bikes in Cambridge and Somerville. The Dutch might still be doing it better, but the Boston area is one of the few places where we at least get close.

I assume you're referring to the rural parts of the state?

Pretty sure the Boston area has the highest rate of pedestrian safety in the nation.
posted by Defenestrator at 11:16 AM on September 5 [2 favorites]


If fatalities/injuries/crashes are your only metric of what makes a good street, then it seems pretty obvious that slowing traffic will help.

On the other hand, completely separating automobiles from pedestrians from bikes would help even more. So you should underground the cars, and put the bikes on raised causeways, so that the three don't interfere with one another. And as long as you're going 3D, you can also eliminate most cross traffic at intersections for vehicles. And think of the side benefits! Having conversations as you walk through the neighborhood, without yelling over the cars! Whizzing along in the air on your bike! No more digging your car out of the snow!

Or if that's too just a wee bit too expensive, you could just ban cars.

If, on the other hand, you also value actually getting where you're going in a reasonable amount of time (regardless of physical limitations), being able to deliver goods and services at a reasonable cost, and not spending an impossible amount of money on infrastructure, things may not be so clear cut.

I've driven in Dutch cities, and it's pretty hellish, to the point where if I lived there I might just give up driving even more than I already have. Maybe that's part of the secret.
posted by Hizonner at 11:20 AM on September 5 [3 favorites]


I'm not arguing with the data, just that I think there's more to the differences between Dutch and North American driving practices/habits than road design. I can't help but think there's something cultural there, too.

Yes, there's probably something cultural. All these Dutch people have grown up in these cities and towns where walking is safe and pleasant, and cities value people even when they are on the outside of a car. So they have different priorities.

And what I'm getting at is that there's some chicken or the egg thing here going on.
posted by entropone at 11:21 AM on September 5 [2 favorites]


My city has been (re-?) installing multi-modal, new-urbanist intersections and major thoroughfares, and by and large they are a big success so far, improving driving times AND making pedestrians and bicyclists safer, while creating a more vibrant streetscape.

However. It is MODERATELY TERRIFYING to navigate these entirely-new-to-me types of intersections and roads ... you don't know quite how to read the other cars' "body language" when none of you have ever had this kind of road before. I'm not quite sure which hazards to expect and what to see as a cue that it's about to occur. I also don't find the new intersections very "legible" yet, which I think is because they're still experimenting with marking and cueing. One of the new roundabouts just has the most CONFUSING markings everywhere, apparently so Americans know how to use it and do so in an orderly fashion, but I do not recall roundabouts being nearly that confusing when I was driving on the wrong side of the road in Ireland and they were largely unmarked. People are spending too much time trying to read the road markings and signs instead of just paying attention to the other cars. Similarly, a newly redesigned main road with fewer lanes, on-street parking, and bike lanes is sort-of hard to understand the first time you see it, and if you come in in the middle instead of at one end, it takes a couple minutes to make sense of all the not-very-well differentiated markings. (We've only seen two cars blow into the bike lane, but we've seen several stop mid-intersection where the bike lane starts, as they realize that's not a lane anymore.)

Anyway. I heartily approve of this "complete streets" model, both because I'm familiar with all the research AND because it's really improved the vitality of those streets just in the short time we've had them. But the transition is a little more scary than I anticipated, and I look forward to the US settling on a more standardized, "legible" mode of marking these things.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:25 AM on September 5 [4 favorites]


I generally like these designs, because they help people who don't intend to speed as well. If a road is wide and straight, but only a 25 mile speed limit, it is very easy to creep over the intended speed unconsciously. But they can be overdone. They redesigned the street in front of my mom's house to narrow it, and whatever formula they used to calculate the width necessary for parking on both sides and two way traffic was off. Possibly they didn't count in the prevalence of SUVs in Arlington, but the result is that two vehicles have difficulty passing, and there are only a couple of places where you can pull over. Apparently the traffic department admitted they had gotten it wrong at a neighborhood meeting, but it isn't likely to be fixed any time soon.
posted by tavella at 11:34 AM on September 5


My dad drives an ambulance (and firetruck) and I'm pretty sure he doesn't slow down for anything unless a rookie's trying to start an IV, much less a speedbump : )

There is a speedbump outside of my house, and I can tell you your father isn't unusual.

Especially at night, when people apparently cannot see the reflective paint, the "speed bump ahead" sign or, you know, the big-ass hunk of concrete in the middle of the road.
posted by madajb at 11:38 AM on September 5


I've driven in Dutch cities, and it's pretty hellish, to the point where if I lived there I might just give up driving even more than I already have. Maybe that's part of the secret.

I'm Dutch, and I can confirm I rather walk or bike than drive in cities, and agree that's part of the secret. We have great public transportation, so if I have to go to Groningen, my nearest city, I just take the bus and walk.
posted by Pendragon at 12:22 PM on September 5 [5 favorites]


Man you guys like to overthink things.

The cheapest way to go about this is to simply stop paving roads. In the short term, the potholes will force drivers to go slower, and in the long term, once the asphalt is gone, the roads will generally require slower speeds. Best of all, in the rainy season, cars will go VERY slow. If at all.

Note that this also reduces the threat to pedestrians from bicycles, so roads well return to being throughways for pedestrians and horses, life they should be.
posted by happyroach at 12:39 PM on September 5 [5 favorites]


"Rather than clarity and segregation, he had created confusion and ambiguity. Unsure of what space belonged to them, drivers became more accommodating."
God, I know it's not a shared road situation, but I think this must be the strategy Chicago used with Lakeshore Drive. Shouldn't we paint lane markings for four narrow lanes of traffic going over this bridge with a really scenic view? Nah. There's weird shit going on up ahead, maybe we should put up some kind of vague warning. Ok, how about some arbitrary flashing yellow lights. And I know! Let's put up a stop sign right next to the road. It'll actually be for the next street over, but we can keep LSD drivers on their toes by giving them a minor heart attack for the split second when they think they need to come to a sudden stop from 50/+ mph.
posted by gueneverey at 1:02 PM on September 5 [3 favorites]


THE ANSWER SIMPLE:
REPLACE ALL CAR
WITH APE

NEED GO STORE?
CLUTCH FUR OF PASSING GIBBON

NEED GO HOSPITAL?
HOLD FAST TO GORILLA

MISS ROMANCE OF ROAD?
WHY NOT RIDE BONOBO - IS SAME THING
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:03 PM on September 5 [23 favorites]


We have great public transportation, so if I have to go to Groningen, my nearest city, I just take the bus and walk.

This is a pretty important point. The Dutch example works partly because their roads exist within a larger context where public transportation plays an important role. Making roads safer by slowing drivers is a good idea, but it won't decrease the number of cars out there.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:08 PM on September 5 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I think the emergency vehicles objection is a canard.

It is a big issue for making changes to existing roads (or for designing a new development), because existing emergency equipment (which is huge in the US, not like those cute little trucks used in some European cities) provides the minimum sizes and turning radii for infrastructure. If the fire department doesn't think they can get their ladder trucks through, you aren't going to be allowed to build it.

Overall I think the described approach is good; here they've done a few little things, I think because some of these multi-modal ideas are becoming integrated into standard best practices and so aren't getting as much push-back as they used to, and those particular intersections have become much nicer as both a pedestrian and a driver.
posted by Dip Flash at 1:10 PM on September 5 [1 favorite]


Is there a kind of suspension that can absorb all of a speed bump at 50 mph?

I don't know about 50 mph, but one of the things I love about the increasingly ludicrous series of Land Rovers I have owned is the way speed bumps basically don't exist at normal city driving speeds. You just.... cruise right through them. I've started to feel it a bit more lately, though, since my current Rover could really use a new set of shocks....

Managing a speed bump at 50 mph is no problem when you're on a motorcycle, though, not since they've started building them with a gap in the center of the road. You just do a little flip of the hips as you pass, to flick your wheels left around the edge of the bump and then back in again.

Possibly they didn't count in the prevalence of SUVs in Arlington, but the result is that two vehicles have difficulty passing, and there are only a couple of places where you can pull over.

This would be considered a "wide street" in Seattle, where "normal" neighborhood streets have a line of cars parked up and down either side and a single lane in the center to drive down. It's not "difficult" to pass, but straight-up "impossible"; one of the cars has to pull into an empty space in the parking lane while the other goes by. This seems insane to people who aren't from around here, but it is surprisingly easy to deal with when you're used to it.
posted by Mars Saxman at 1:14 PM on September 5 [2 favorites]


"...To Make Streets Safe, You Must First Make Them Dangerous."
The best example of this I ever experienced was US34 through Rocky Mountain National Park.
When I visited in the 60's as a kid, I remember it being scary, but I think there were some guardrails. When I drove it myself in the 90's, there were no guardrails, just occasional rocks a few inches high or flimsy-looking sticks, and about 6" of 'shoulder'.
I overheard a visitor asking a ranger why there were no guardrails, and he said they had too many accidents. Now everyone drives very slowly. When I did it, I'm not sure I went over 10MPH in most sections. See if you would. It's a long way down.
posted by MtDewd at 1:45 PM on September 5 [1 favorite]


Kevin Street: "The Dutch example works partly because their roads exist within a larger context where public transportation plays an important role."

Yeah, the big issue is that, using flawed economic models for justification, we've been subsidizing the living crap out of automobile transportation, which means that we've built these huge sprawling suburbs that aren't navigable without cars. And without clusters of walkability, public transportation doesn't work, because it needs a density to make sense.

The way out of this is to implement VMTs so that we can get the cost of using the car on par with the huge costs of deploying infrastructure to serve it, but that'll lower property values in the burbs, and play hell with the big box business model, so there's not a lot of political will to fix the economic waste.
posted by straw at 1:48 PM on September 5 [6 favorites]


I was trying and failing to find the study that showed that the number of fatalities from crashes would decrease by a much larger number than the number from EMS vehicles traveling slower and getting to the hospital later. I think I saw it here, but my google-fu is weak.

Instead, I found this from stackexchange, which looks properly sourced. Conclusion- speed bumps do not cause an increase in patient deaths at all (with the caveat that this appears to be about trauma and not things like heart attacks).

I cannot find data for heart attacks, and when I find arguments against speed restrictions, they look to be solely about heart attacks. Also, the statistics used in these arguments seems to only be concerned with pedestrian deaths, not occupant deaths as well.
posted by Hactar at 2:17 PM on September 5


"The Dutch example works partly because their roads exist within a larger context where public transportation plays an important role."

The Dutch example works well, because most Dutch drivers will be cyclists too, at some point -- and at least they once have been -- so they know how to behave around them.

Hans Monderman's ideas are not without their critics in the Netherlands. As bicyclists, let alone pedestrians, remain fragile road users, especially on the shared spaces that cars will use as a passage to someplace else.

On those spots, the less self confident cyclists often do not dare to ride.

Meanwhile. living in a town were many streets were changed according to Monderman's plans, I must say cycling for all daily affairs is great, for me, because there are no traffic lights anywhere to stop me pedalling. And I am not that frightened around cars.
posted by ijsbrand at 2:29 PM on September 5 [2 favorites]


Mars Saxman: It's not "difficult" to pass, but straight-up "impossible"; one of the cars has to pull into an empty space in the parking lane while the other goes by. This seems insane to people who aren't from around here, but it is surprisingly easy to deal with when you're used to it.

That would require there to be empty spaces in the parking lane, which there are not on this particular road.
posted by tavella at 3:42 PM on September 5 [1 favorite]


happyroach: "The cheapest way to go about this is to simply stop paving roads. In the short term, the potholes will force drivers to go slower, and in the long term, once the asphalt is gone, the roads will generally require slower speeds. Best of all, in the rainy season, cars will go VERY slow. If at all."
Watch half an hour of Russian dashcam vids on Youtube and report back again, please.
posted by brokkr at 3:53 PM on September 5 [5 favorites]


Watch half an hour of Russian dashcam vids on Youtube and report back again, please.

OK, let's see...hmmm...EEEEEEEE! Russian drivers stop for stuck prairie dogs!

I'm sorry, what was the thread again?

Gottawatchitagain! EEEEEEEEE! And again! EEEEEEEEE!

We totally just gotta stick prairie dogs in our roads! Problem solved!
posted by happyroach at 10:48 PM on September 5 [2 favorites]


Pretty sure the Boston area has the highest rate of pedestrian safety in the nation.

Can you document this? I (as a pedestrian) find the streets to be a constant knot of frustration. Getting anywhere requires ad hoc, pantomime negotiation with traffic from 2 or more directions. If Boston is the the safest it must be because pedestrians are too annoyed to even try to cross streets.

This is the only city where I've been hit by a car.

In one intersection I regularly jog by, there are always new pieces of car debris scattered around.

Ok, research research, yes, Boston seems to have the lowest pedestrian fatalities in the country. Supposedly the rate is figured as a proportion of pedestrian commuters.

I guess I am spoiled by New York, which is technically the only city in America that is actually walkable. Here in Boston, I often can walk most of the way from place to place without being interrupted by something stupid, but then: a seven-way intersection (local term: "square") that can only be crossed when every direction of traffic is stopped! or whatever.

Maybe there is a safety-convenience tradeoff being made. Having the crossing indicators go only when all directions of traffic is stopped should in theory prevent anyone from dying while crossing with the light (although there are some intersections where the cars push it). But who can bear to wait for the lights to change when you have to wait through all directions of traffic -- sometimes just two, but sometimes several--?? Don't you people have anywhere to be?
posted by grobstein at 12:35 AM on September 6 [1 favorite]


In Illinois:
Batavia uses Dutch concept to revitalize downtown: a Chicago suburb builds one of the first woonerfs in the Midwest
I was able to open this page but it may be paywalled for you. I think it's OK because it's a week old now.

Landscape architecture firm's project page for Batavia project.

I can't help but think there's something cultural there, too.

Indeed, this is thought to be the case:
The existence of the polders is credited with creating a Dutch culture where people had to learn to set aside differences for a greater purpose.

Regardless, as far as transportation, the Dutch didn't start from a place much different than ours, and where they are today follows half a century of modifications in city by city, so the Dutch today have grown up with this sort of infrastructure. How they got there, though, was hard-won [6min video].
posted by dhartung at 12:59 AM on September 6


Ok, research research, yes, Boston seems to have the lowest pedestrian fatalities in the country. Supposedly the rate is figured as a proportion of pedestrian commuters.

If I had to guess as to why the rate of pedestrian fatalities is so low, it's probably also the reason why Massachusetts has the most car accidents per capita but by far the fewest fatal car accidents, specifically that most of the accidents are happening at relatively low speeds. I forget what the exact number is, but above something like 35 mph, the survivability of a car accident plummets, so if the horrific road circumstances are keeping the average speed low enough, you end up with a ton of relatively minor (or at least non-fatal) car accidents.
posted by Copronymus at 11:03 AM on September 6 [2 favorites]


Thanks that helps. I seem to remember reading that the critical number is like 15mph (also the top unassisted land speed for a person, more or less). In terms of deaths, maybe the medical infrastructure is also distorting the numbers -- Boston is a major medical center, so conceivably people wind up surviving accidents that would kill then other places.
posted by grobstein at 12:26 PM on September 6 [1 favorite]


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