Crosswalks are less common in poor neighborhoods.
May 15, 2013 7:37 PM   Subscribe

 
previously.
posted by fings at 7:41 PM on May 15, 2013


From the first link:
The man behind the wheel was Jerry Guy, who pleaded guilty to hit-and-run in the case. He admitted to drinking earlier in the day and said he had been prescribed pain medication as well. He’s blind in one eye. In 1997, Guy had been convicted of two other hit-and-runs that occurred on the same day, one of them on the very same road where A.J. died. But prosecutors still decided to go after Nelson a month after her son died, and she could have ended up doing more time than the driver.
What the everloving fuck.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:42 PM on May 15, 2013 [159 favorites]


The case against Nelson doesn't make any damn sense. Yet it's real.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:45 PM on May 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


It's pretty common to blame poor people for making bad choices when infrastructure considerations mean they have no good options.
posted by gingerest at 7:49 PM on May 15, 2013 [120 favorites]


It's depressing that I don't find this surprising in the least. Terrible, sure. Surprising, not at all.
posted by Literaryhero at 7:50 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is horrifying and tragic. It reminds me that so many things we call accidents really are not accidental at all, they are logical endpoints of system flaws.
posted by arcticwoman at 7:52 PM on May 15, 2013 [28 favorites]


Anecdotally, when I have lived in or near lower-income urban areas, I have seen much more truly reckless driving than in more affluent areas. It's not to say that cross-walks wouldn't help, but I am skeptical that signage is the main issue. I am curious whether there is any empirical data that could be used to assess whether signs or just bad driving are to blame or can even be separated.
posted by Mid at 8:05 PM on May 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


There's a higher incidence of pedestrians getting hit at crosswalks than when jaywalking because they don't pay as close attention to traffic. So the idea that you're being less responsible by crossing away from an intersection isn't necessarily right. And going after this poor mother in these circumstances is such unspeakable bullshit.
posted by Dasein at 8:06 PM on May 15, 2013 [15 favorites]


Infrastructure in places with smaller tax bases is worse. I mean... yeah.
posted by Etrigan at 8:09 PM on May 15, 2013 [3 favorites]



Anecdotally, when I have lived in or near lower-income urban areas, I have seen much more truly reckless driving than in more affluent areas.


Many reasons:

1. Recidivist drunk drivers, even when they start out wealthy, soon drift into the margins of society, and so it's the poor who have to bear the risk of having them for neighbors.

2. In many parts of the country, it's considered acceptable to floor it if you must drive through a poor neighborhood.

3. The poor are less likely to call city hall to ask for fixes to bad road design, and when they do call, they're less likely to be listened to.

4. That goes double for roads that are the state's responsibility.

And finally:

5. The rich live where they will. The poor live where they must. So long as areas exist that are not built to be safe for walking, the poor will be more likely to wind up living in them.
posted by ocschwar at 8:10 PM on May 15, 2013 [42 favorites]


What I love about this is that there's a prosecutor who is so fucking broken as a person- so fundamentally incapable of pretending to be a human being- that they went "Oh, I think I can get a conviction on the mom, too!"
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:14 PM on May 15, 2013 [87 favorites]


yeah poor people just drive badly is a strange takeaway.
posted by sweetkid at 8:16 PM on May 15, 2013


Isn't there an implied crosswalk at every intersection, marked or not?
posted by xedrik at 8:16 PM on May 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


Unfortunately, crosswalks are probably seen as a municipal extravagance, beyond the budget afforded by low property tax neighborhoods. You'll find more of them in wealthy areas for the same reason that you'll find more bike lanes, fewer potholes, any city gardens, fountains, and reflecting pools in those areas.

On preview, what Etrigan said.
posted by ceribus peribus at 8:17 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]



Unfortunately, crosswalks are probably seen as a municipal extravagance


And yet somehow 2 lane roads with 12' per lane isn't extravagant.

We need a change on this. Cars are only 8' wide at most. And people will naturally slow down on narrow roads. (Which are also safer to cross by virtue of shorter crossing distances.)
posted by ocschwar at 8:21 PM on May 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


Shame on Georgia for even filing charges against the bereaved mother. Heap even more shame on them for the conviction, that, among other things, makes her a convicted felon and all the fallout that entails for a poor person. And whaddya know, she's black and impoverished, which I'm sure had nothing to do with the handling of her case.

Is there a website to contribute to her defense in a retrial?
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 8:22 PM on May 15, 2013 [10 favorites]


The extra half lane is for parking (according to NYC suburbs, apparently).
posted by ceribus peribus at 8:23 PM on May 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


yeah poor people just drive badly is a strange takeaway.

I think it's more that people who drive badly are more likely to be poor and the affect is magnified by the higher population density in urban areas.
posted by VTX at 8:23 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


That'll show those reckless mothers.
posted by spitbull at 8:25 PM on May 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Isn't there an implied crosswalk at every intersection, marked or not?

There may not be a lot of intersections between where you are and where you want to go. For example, say you're staying at a popular hotel in Coralville, Iowa and want to get in a morning run at the very nice track and field facility located directly across the street. Here is the half-mile route that you must walk in order to get there legally.

Now imagine that you and your kids take the bus, and you have to cross that street every day to get to work.
posted by compartment at 8:34 PM on May 15, 2013 [15 favorites]


Here is the half-mile route that you must walk in order to get there legally.

Wow. What the -

This really brings home the "we're all playing this Life videogame at different levels" idea.
posted by sweetkid at 8:40 PM on May 15, 2013 [12 favorites]


In fairness to the terrible, pedestrian-hating street design in Coralville, that park is fenced and only has one entrance. So, your long walk is the fault of both the departments transportation and recreation.
posted by fitnr at 8:50 PM on May 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


I live in a neighborhood in Portland, OR that bore the brunt of the 205 bypass going in on the east side. It cut the neighborhood in half going north and south, then the two streets that are used to feed traffic on and off of 205 cut it in half going east and west.

The resulting traffic patterns are pretty awful. People speed through the couplet to get on and off the highway, and I have twice nearly been run over crossing the street (with a walk signal) by people coming off the couplet and turning onto an arterial that runs parallel to the highway. When I walk home from the light rail station, I spend a lot of time just standing at the crosswalks watching cars go by. Sometimes, if a pair of motorists going each way stop to let me cross, the people behind them honk and shout out their windows, then yell abuse at me.

So, the situation's not great, and we've learned to avoid the former town center where the couplet and arterials are because the traffic is fast and the drivers are largely oblivious to the local residents: It's just this thing they cut through to get to the burb-like developments and gated community a bit to the south of our neighborhood or to drive further west to nicer neighborhoods closer in. When we do walk down to the town center (there's a nice café we go to on the weekends for breakfast) we walk two blocks the wrong direction (so 2/5 of a mile per round trip) so we can catch a light rather than "island hop" across the couplet, where I've nearly been hit even obeying the lights.

Anecdotally, I'd say it's not just "bad, poor drunkards on the margins of society" who're the danger to me (though I'm sure we have 'em). It's also middle class types in SUVs, and those weird gigantic pickups that have never hauled anything besides groceries (and Hummers, Clackamas County represent!) speeding through on their way to somewhere else. Certainly, that's who was driving the two times I was nearly hit. They're awfully nice people, too. I remember the look of shock and then outright embarrassment and apology on the face of one woman who nearly took me out. She mouthed SORRY really big and looked like she was ready to cry. Just an awfully nice lady who nearly killed me because she had tunnel vision going through my neighborhood in her ginormous Aspen.

People have raised the issue of how fast and untrammeled the traffic is, and they're told a combination of things that all involve the fact that the bypass is nearby and that there's not a lot the city can do as a result, maybe because the congestion that would result from slowing the people coming off the highway would be too great. It seems to take a death or two for an intersection to get a special pedestrian light, which has happened at a couple of intersections in the area once a few elderlies or drunks were run down.

And I see it as a "poor neighborhood" issue, too, just not because there are poor people here now, but because there were poor people here when the decision was made to move the bypass from closer-in SE Portland to what probably seemed like the very far-out SE at the time. Maybe they could have thought through a way to make having that bypass going through a less impoverished neighborhood less onerous and disruptive, but they didn't. They just did what people do which is figure out the right balance of keeping the people who proved to be really, really unhappy about a highway going through their back yard happy and deciding who they can safely ignore. And once you've figured out the neighborhood you can safely ignore, then ignore it, you end up making sure it's the kind of place people will continue to ignore in perpetuity (or until the cost of a three bedroom craftsman in the Hawthorne area becomes so unbearable that more people hold their noses and move east of 82nd or South of Powell in increasing numbers, bringing along with them whatever it is about nice middle class folks that stirs up enough empathy to make things so their kids and elderlies aren't geting run over).
posted by mph at 8:57 PM on May 15, 2013 [41 favorites]


What the everloving fuck.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts


Exactly, Htwrt.
My thoughts on this are red as well. Damn them!

How many different excuses can Georgia use to put every poor black person behind bars?
posted by BlueHorse at 8:57 PM on May 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Here's a particularly apt story on the issue:

http://www.raisethehammer.org/article/1850/city_crackdown_on_tactical_urbanism
posted by ocschwar at 9:10 PM on May 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


What I love about this is that there's a prosecutor who is so fucking broken as a person- so fundamentally incapable of pretending to be a human being- that they went "Oh, I think I can get a conviction on the mom, too!"

The prosecutor was just reflecting community standards. I live about 4 miles away from where the hit-and-run occurred, and the general sentiment around here was that she SHOULD have been on trial for endangering her son. Around here, if you're not driving it's obviously because of a personality defect (aka - you're a dirty hippie) or moral failing (you must be lazy and unable to afford a car, or got a DUI and lost your license) and if something bad happens as a result, you had it coming.
posted by deadmessenger at 9:16 PM on May 15, 2013 [10 favorites]


ndangering her son. Around here, if you're not driving it's obviously because of a personality defect (aka - you're a dirty hippie) or moral failing (you must be lazy and unable to afford a car, or got a DUI and lost your license) and if something bad happens as a result, you had it coming.

This kind of thing makes me feel like I live in another country here in NYC
posted by sweetkid at 9:18 PM on May 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


The prosecutor was just reflecting community standards. I live about 4 miles away from where the hit-and-run occurred, and the general sentiment around here was that she SHOULD have been on trial for endangering her son. Around here, if you're not driving it's obviously because of a personality defect (aka - you're a dirty hippie) or moral failing (you must be lazy and unable to afford a car, or got a DUI and lost your license) and if something bad happens as a result, you had it coming.

What a hugely unpleasant place you make it sound like.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:18 PM on May 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


It is. They could put her in a for-profit prison and make a slave of her. Slavery is legal if applied to prisoners....
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:27 PM on May 15, 2013


This kind of thing makes me feel like I live in another country here in NYC

I grew up in NYC, and yeah, that's about right.
posted by deadmessenger at 9:31 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


“It is extraordinary to me,” said he, “that you people cannot take care of yourselves and your children. One or the other of you is for ever in the way. How do I know what injury you have done my horses.”--A Tale of two cities.
posted by No Robots at 9:31 PM on May 15, 2013 [22 favorites]


Whose streets? Our streets.
posted by Apropos of Something at 9:31 PM on May 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


This kind of thing makes me feel like I live in another country here in NYC.

If you buy into the thesis Colin Woodard puts forth in American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, you would be right. NYC has its historic roots in people who were interested in founding a colony where tolerating other cultures was a basic tenet. Georgia, on the other hand, was founded as a way to reform poor people under the theory that hard work would cure them of laziness.

To this non-Georgian, this entire case seems to be another way of reforming those lazy poor people by providing an instructive and cautionary example of what happens if you have the nerve to be a poor pedestrian.
posted by sobell at 9:36 PM on May 15, 2013 [17 favorites]


" It's also middle class types in SUVs, and those weird gigantic pickups that have never hauled anything besides groceries (and Hummers, Clackamas County represent!) speeding through on their way to somewhere else."

Yeah. I live in a mixed-class neighborhood anchored by a historic Catholic school, where many of the students had parents and grandparents who attended there. They drive in from much wealthier neighborhoods, even from out of town. The school is literally in the center of the neighborhood, with three approaches that are all quiet residential streets (not arteries nor local access roads, but residential streets). Parents who live two blocks from the school are afraid to let their kids walk to school because PEOPLE IN SUVs DRIVE LIKE FUCKING MANIACS. They don't care that it's someone's neighborhood; they don't care that it's the neighborhood many of their children's classmates live in. They're just picking their kid up, five times a week, because lord knows little Madison Marie doesn't ride the bus. They're in a hurry.

We have actual statistics because the neighborhood association calls the cops ALL THE TIME. And our city council person. And the school. And the PTA. And the priest, who says in his Sunday homilies "STOP DRIVING LIKE FUCKING MANIACS, PEOPLE LIVE HERE." They slow down until Tuesday and then drive like crazy people again.

It is absolutely maddening, it's people with cars full of children driving dangerously alongside SIDEWALKS FULL OF THOSE CHILDREN'S CLASSMATES. I mean, seriously, there is literally nothing that will make people slow down if they can't slow down for CHILDREN THEY PERSONALLY KNOW.

I'm quite sure that not-middle-aged-parents are worse drivers (I know because insurance tells me so!) but the fact that middle-aged "safe"-driving parents of young children can drive so recklessly, just because it isn't their neighborhood, is terrifying.

I all the time remind children -- whether I know them or not, whether I'm in my own neighborhood or not -- to get out of the street, because cars don't really care and I don't want them to get run over. There's a whole anti-jaywalking movement/sentiment in town, with the sentiment that it's poor, law-disregarding, disrespectful, disengaged teenagers who jaywalk or don't obey pedestrian laws, but I have pulled up to big groups of teenagers horsing around in all kinds of neighborhoods and never had them be less than polite and responsive when I've asked them to move because I don't want them to get hit. (They think I'm a weirdo dork, but they're nice about it.) It's not the kids, it's the damn cars.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:58 PM on May 15, 2013 [35 favorites]


Another story of jaywalking in Atlanta. Long story short, the American Historical Association held its annual meeting in Atlanta in January 2007, renting space at both the Hilton and the Marriott, which are across the street from one another (but no cross walk). A renowned British historian jaywalked, wass confronted by police, asked for their identification, and was knocked to the ground and arrested for his troubles.

The History News Network (NOT the History Channel) has a great bunch of links on this.
posted by dhens at 10:15 PM on May 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't understand how you can read this story and conclude that it is merely an urban planning scandal.

Lots of poor neighborhoods have crosswalks. They're not expensive. There is nothing to "construct." You just get the city to paint some lines in the road. And many rich people choose to live in suburbs without sidewalks or crosswalks, so it's not obvious that walkability is a rich/poor issue.

This story is about a criminal justice system scandal. It would be almost impossible to convict Nelson for this crime if she even had a halfway passable lawyer. The prosecutor would never have indicted her if she were middle class and there was a chance she'd put up a fight. This happens routinely in Atlanta, NYC, Iowa, pretty much everywhere. It's pretty common for poor people to end up in jail when an accident happens to their kids, when this is exceptionally rare for middle-class people.
posted by miyabo at 10:39 PM on May 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


You just get the city to paint some lines in the road.

Have you ever actually tried to do this?
posted by KathrynT at 10:47 PM on May 15, 2013 [21 favorites]


And many rich people choose to live in suburbs without sidewalks or crosswalks, so it's not obvious that walkability is a rich/poor issue.

The reason there is no demand for sidewalks or crosswalks in richer suburbs, is because the people who live there all have cars and/or drivers.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:54 PM on May 15, 2013


What a hugely unpleasant place you make it sound like.

I don't know why you're qualifying it like that; it is a hugely unpleasant place, and a majority of people there think in the way that deadmessenger describes.
posted by junco at 11:02 PM on May 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


This kind of thing makes me feel like I live in another country here in NYC.

My girlfriend doesn't drive (hates cars, pragmatically and politically, and never learnt). In our years in the US, most weeks one or other of us would end up saying to somebody we didn't know very well "L. doesn't drive". It was weird, then over time became funny, to watch people respond in one of two ways, based on their initial assumptions. The first group would assume that she had a medical reason, and if she was present would more or less obviously have a look for the wheelchair, prostheses or corrective glasses that they'd missed. Sometimes people would tell us of relatives with epilepsy or Altzheimer's at this point. The second group would assume a DUI had lead to the loss of her driving license, and that it must have had horrific consequences because this actually happens so infrequently. If we didn't like the person, a cheerily British "but it's OK as cromagnon drives us both to the bar!" was enough to ensure they never spoke to us again.

Anyhow - this sequence of predictable events occurred everywhere we went, and was not noticeably less frequent in Manhattan than in Pittsburgh, central VA or Atlanta.
posted by cromagnon at 11:06 PM on May 15, 2013 [3 favorites]




I live in a wealthy preminantly white urban area with many terrible dangerous drivers and a number of pedestrian deaths in recent memory
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 11:37 PM on May 15, 2013


Yes? And how many of the pedestrians were charged?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:40 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Etrigan: "Infrastructure in places with smaller tax bases is worse. I mean... yeah."

I don't know that this is the whole story. Even within a large city (uniform tax base), the infrastructure differences between rich and poor neighborhoods can be striking. And the "New Jersey study" link from the OP points out one case where several of the problem roads are county roads, again an instance in which the local economic conditions are evened out by a broader tax base.
posted by dendrochronologizer at 11:42 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


None -- just reacting to the "poor people are bad drivers" point -- carry on
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 11:44 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sometimes, back home in Louisiana, I'll be riding in a car with a family member. We'll be driving in an incredibly pedestrian-unfriendly car-scaled landscape, possibly a country road with no shoulder and no streetlights after dark. Suddenly, there will be a pedestrian. Usually someone poor and non-white.

Someone in the car (never me) will inevitably remark that there shouldn't be pedestrians on this street, that said pedestrian "is going to get himself killed", and other weirdly entitled and even racist statements that imply that the speaker assumes that everyone has a car that they use as their exclusive mode of transportation to get everywhere, all the time. And that if they don't, they probably deserve to die. Or maybe should just be homebound.

TL;DR: This research does not surprise me one whit.
posted by Sara C. at 11:54 PM on May 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


None -- just reacting to the "poor people are bad drivers" point -- carry on

Ah, I see. My apologies if I came off a bit combative; I misinterpreted.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:56 PM on May 15, 2013


On further reading I found out that Raquel Nelson, a person of colour was found guilty by an all white jury.
The Cobb County Solicitor general has a web page and contact info for anyone who feels they might like to comment on how justice is being upheld.
posted by adamvasco at 12:51 AM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Crosswalk? Cross this! Driving is a privilege. Forcing folks to walk way out of their way in order to not interfere with privileged drivers is bullshit.

WALKING IS A RIGHT!

Not that the USA gives a shit about that old-fashioned rights shit anymore. It's a commercial enterprise, these days. Walking is free, so it no longer matters.
posted by Goofyy at 1:54 AM on May 16, 2013 [16 favorites]


Goofyy: "Crosswalk? Cross this! Driving is a privilege. Forcing folks to walk way out of their way in order to not interfere with privileged drivers is bullshit.

WALKING IS A RIGHT!

Not that the USA gives a shit about that old-fashioned rights shit anymore. It's a commercial enterprise, these days. Walking is free, so it no longer matters.
"

When I read in the comments section of the Seattle paper that "this war on cars must end," I sadly conclude that your point, while correct to me, is lost.
posted by fireoyster at 2:01 AM on May 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


"I think it's more that people who drive badly are more likely to be poor "

What? Got data for that?
posted by HuronBob at 2:50 AM on May 16, 2013


My take on this (after almost being hit yesterday by a driver on her cell phone; as this happens v. often in my hood -- and I'm in a wheelchair and I don't drive) after talking to a local PD here whose advice was 'be careful'
1. In this low income area, drugs and shootings are higher priority than shitty drivers
2. Folks around here are often dealing with two jobs and many child-raising responsibilities, making cell phone use more important
3. There's a culture of road rage here. Why that is, I dunno. But not far from here a teenager got out of his car and severely beat an elderly man when the latter yelled at him about how fast he was driving

Why the woman the subject of this FPP was prosecuted, I dunno, but that in some communities (like mine) bad drivers are seen as occupational hazards.
posted by angrycat at 3:16 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here's a poor neighborhood in Asheville, people are constantly walking along this road at all hours ( of course poor people have to walk more, fewer of them owning vehicles); you can move along it and see that there are no sidewalks and not even much of a shoulder to speak of in many spots. This area has about the highest pedestrian traffic in the city, and I doubt they'll ever put in any sidewalks.
posted by Red Loop at 3:23 AM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Last week I listened to a This American Life rerun about a high school in Chicago. This post makes me think of this part of the story:
Every day at dismissal, kids drift out of Harper High School and walk along Wood Street-- actually, right down the middle of Wood Street. It's a strange scene. Cars drive slowly, waiting for students to move out of the way. One teacher told me that when she first arrived at Harper, she thought this was just plain hooliganism. The teenagers taking over. One afternoon, a girl named Alex explained, that's not it at all.

Alex: We feel safer like this. For some reason, we just feel safe like that. we never like to walk past trees and stuff, there's too much stuff going on.

Linda Lutton: "Too much stuff going on" is shorthand here for the shootings, the fights, the craziness. It's better to walk down the middle of the street, where you can keep a broad view of things, and where you have a few more seconds to run if you need to.
posted by nicebookrack at 3:29 AM on May 16, 2013 [12 favorites]


I think there are a host of valid reasons why poor driving might be more common among lower income cohorts. I think people who grow up among the dispossessed, as it were, don't have the social structure that helps them become good drivers in the first place. Many of them don't even have dads, for instance. People who can't afford fines get their licenses suspended and revoked and fall out of the licensing regime. Add to that the crazy habits people get, which I'm guessing for lack of any other reasonable explanation are more urban compared to my city-in-the-country, where people bike on the LEFT and walk on the RIGHT when they're in the road -- which has to lead to more injuries and fatalities.

Lots of poor neighborhoods have crosswalks. They're not expensive. There is nothing to "construct." You just get the city to paint some lines in the road.

Well, in this case, it would take more than just some paint -- the multi-lane road probably requires a stoplight for a pedestrian crossing by DOT standards, and even then people might be taking their lives in their hands because it's a FUCKING WIDE ROAD to cross and multi-lane situations are more dangerous for pedestrians regardless of signage.

It sounds like you're thinking of normal, city grid neighborhoods, but increasingly poor neighborhoods are just as likely to be out in the suburban sprawl. It becomes a question of not just crosswalks, but whether there are sidewalks on the side of the road or just a dirt path inches from the shoulder-less pavement, whether there are ways to cross bridges safely, whether there are other pedestrian-unfriendly impediments ranging from a busy truck stop or factory entrance or water control features and so forth. Multifamily housing in many municipalities is restricted to areas adjoining commercial and industrial zoning. Then you have the suburban developments that are separated from each other by intent so you end up not being able to take the more efficient route, but a long roundabout one, increasing your exposure to hazard trip by trip.

And many rich people choose to live in suburbs without sidewalks or crosswalks, so it's not obvious that walkability is a rich/poor issue.

Yup, but those neighborhoods are designed to frustrate and discourage through traffic, and the residents are expected to have cars to get to work, school, shopping, and leisure. So Mr. Smartset jogs in the street between dawn and dusk, say, and then it's dark and Ms. Notsolucci, her nanny, gets to go home by walking a mile down those same streets while Mrs. Smartset drives her car in a rush to get home, then continues another mile down a main road that has no sidewalk because in this neighhborhood, who would be walking there? and finally catches a bus. You know this is reality. So even in these "by choice" neighborhoods there are people who are impacted by the lack of sidewalks.

That doesn't even account for people aging in place or coping with disability, two growing categories of potential residents of these same areas who just don't fit the Leave it to Beaver template they were designed for.
posted by dhartung at 3:39 AM on May 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


When I lived in Syracuse back in the early '00s, the mall had literally zero crosswalks into it. None. Not a sausage. You could not legally walk to it. Seeing people (me included) sprinting across four lanes of traffic was not at all uncommon. Every time I did, I thought, I wonder how many people are going to die doing this before the correct blonde teenage Orange Julius employee does it and people get outraged.

I only lived there for two years, and that perfect example never did get killed, so I still don't know whether you can legally walk to the now-sixth-largest mall in the country.
posted by Etrigan at 3:50 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Last week I listened to a This American Life rerun about a high school in Chicago

Yes, yes, Chicago is nothing but targets and murderers.*

It's also one place where you are not lacking in sidewalks, where one of the busiest streets in town has a crosswalk to let you walk between the lake and a fountain**, and there is an ordinance that you *must* stop for a pedestrian in a marked crosswalk.

It isn't perfect for pedestrians, though in the last five years the closest calls I've had walking were with bikes, not cars. But Chicago is about a billion time more pedestrian oriented than Georgia.

So, I'm really curious as to why you brought this up.


* No, it's not. You're being made to believe that the murder rate in Chicago has never been higher, when it is 50% less than the early 1990s and has dropped this year. You should ask why you are being made to believe this. Yes, there is a problem. No, it is nothing like it was, and with a few exceptions, the homicide rate continues to fall in Chicago.

** Yes, they put the crosswalk back at Queen's Landing. That was one of Daley's more stupid moves, pulling that out.
posted by eriko at 4:11 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Poor pedestrians are more likely to be hit by cars because, in America, poor people are more likely to be pedestrians. Outside the large, Richard-Florida-approved cities, the infrastructure is so overwhelmingly geared toward automotive transport, and policies designed to improve automotive throughput through the system at the expense of everything else, that walking, can only be seen as a last resort when there is no alternative. For those who have a choice, it's better characterized as an act of civil disobedience. As this mostly follows from land-use and density decisions, there can be no turning back from these mistakes unless you're willing to start tearing buildings down. Kelo notwithstanding, that's not going to happen.

Poor neighborhoods are also more likely to have thoroughfares run through them by design -- this is Atlanta, after all, where the entire plan of the urban freeway network was influenced by the desire to (1) build physical barriers between black and white neighborhoods and (2) destroy successful black business centers.

These are historical mistakes, not easily undone. Prosecution of the mother for the hit-and-run on the child, though, is straight-up unmitigated barbarism, shocking even for Georgia.
posted by Vetinari at 4:45 AM on May 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


So, I'm really curious as to why you brought this up.

They were reflecting on other reasons people might do things contrary to traffic laws, like walk down the middle of the road. (Which is, coincidentally, something I've heard people complain about as a cover for racism, though that's not obviously related to the TAL quotation.)
posted by hoyland at 4:59 AM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


I couldn't find the location of the incident in the articles, but it had to be on Buford Highway. It's a prime example of the terrible urban planning of the city. Crosswalks are spaced almost a mile apart and you can see families crossing together all the time, complete with baby carriages. It's really risky, but it's the only practical way to go about your business for the people who live there.

There are no sidewalks, and improvised footpaths have been cut into the clay over time. But there are MARTA bus stops along the road- exactly how to they expect people to get to them?

Atlanta just doesn't care. The rich and influential are just passing through on their way to Buckhead or the Dekalb airport (the setting for part of A Man in Full), where the good-ol-boy governor famously owns a private jet. There's no way he doesn't personally know.

But it is the way to Lee's Bakery. And I love that place beyond words.
posted by myriad gantry at 5:05 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


And many rich people choose to live in suburbs without sidewalks or crosswalks, so it's not obvious that walkability is a rich/poor issue.


Many of those suburbs and nicer areas have battled fiercely to prevent sidewalks from being put in, because being able to walk somewhere safely is a nice thing no one should have, I guess. I walk to work because I can't drive (I really hate driving) and that's basically mind-boggling to people around here. Like actually can't comprehend it. There are long stretches of sidewalk without crosswalks even in very commercialized areas (and virtually none of the intersections are very "safe") but at least there's only four lanes of traffic and pretty good visibility going both ways. Most of the bigger supermarkets do require a circuitous route on foot through dangerous parking lots, and I wouldn't want to be a stroller-toting mother handling bags of groceries in them either. Most of the light cycles have to have the pedestrian lights triggered before they start, or maybe the walk buttons are just broken all the time, so you end up crossing without a walk sign because there's no other choice because there are no other options.

.
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:18 AM on May 16, 2013


You just get the city to paint some lines in the road.

It took a dedicated group of people two years to get this one done, at an intersection people had been complaining about for years, in a relatively wealthy and extremely pedestrian-dense neighborhood.
posted by skycrashesdown at 5:46 AM on May 16, 2013


I used to have to cross Laurier at this intersection (at the corner but no marked crosswalk because their aren't any in this subdivision except in the immediate vicinity of the school) and it was amazing to me how many drivers would blow through the stop sign while I was stepped down off the curb waiting to cross. I used to cross there 10 times a week and it would happen at least once a week. Drivers would overshoot the stop sign by almost exactly a car length so I took to slapping the back of the car/SUVonce they came to a stop and on several occasions I had the driver tell me I shouldn't have done so because "they didn't see me standing there". A less calm and collected person might have punched them right in the mouth at that point. So I have no problem at all believing that drivers just don't see pedestrians.

Where I'm living now there is a lovely wide multi use path running along the water front but only three of dozens of intersections with marked crosswalks to get to that path. And it's pretty routine for drivers to blow by people waiting to cross at the unmarked intersections. I'd say 50%. I'm not sure what it's like at the marked cross walks generally because the only one I cross at is in school zone at that I use at the start/end of the school day so people are pretty good about stopping.
posted by Mitheral at 5:49 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, from the first link:

The GOP managed to paint these life-saving, community-enhancing programs as a frivolous waste of money spent planting flowers, and they hacked off a big chunk of money that used to be set aside for them. The end result is a “Transportation Alternatives” program which, according to America Bikes, cuts bike/ped funding by 60 to 70 percent. Not only is the overall pot smaller, but these funds can now be used on certain types of road projects. Worse, although half the funds will go straight to local areas to distribute, the half that goes to the states doesn’t need to be used for active transportation – they can “transfer” it to a whole host of other uses if they want. “Complete streets” language in the Senate bill that created a federal requirement for accommodation of non-motorized road users was stripped as well.

FUUUUUUUUU
posted by angrycat at 5:50 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


shout out their windows, then yell abuse at me.

Too bad you wern't the local DA because it strikes me there is a way to charge the shouters with terrorism.
posted by rough ashlar at 5:54 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Drivers would overshoot the stop sign by almost exactly a car length so I took to slapping the back of the car/SUVonce they came to a stop and on several occasions I had the driver tell me I shouldn't have done so because "they didn't see me standing there". A less calm and collected person might have punched them right in the mouth at that point.

I've done the NYC thing here on the onskirts of Philly the two million times I've almost been hit, and OMG people are so fucking amazed at my curses and gesticulations. I usually get derailed by whatever response (the last two were, 'you should learn how to cross the street, you're already in a wheelchair' and yesterday it was 'yeah, you see a black driver and..' I just get all like the robots in the Harvey Mudd episode in Star Trek: 'but -- illogical' and all my righteous fury melts away in the confusion.
posted by angrycat at 5:56 AM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


There's a higher incidence of pedestrians getting hit at crosswalks than when jaywalking because they don't pay as close attention to traffic. So the idea that you're being less responsible by crossing away from an intersection isn't necessarily right.
Are you sure about that?

I ask because I recently (like, past month or so) heard of a study which (if I remember correctly) did not say that, but that could have been easily confused as saying that. Specifically, it was for NYC or maybe just Manhattan, and said something along the lines of "as many people get hit in crosswalks as get hit out of them". Given the vast numbers of people in Manhattan who are crossing in any particular crosswalk, and the relatively small numbers that just nonchalantly stroll across random points in the middle of Fifth Avenue, this absolutely does not imply a higher incidence of pedestrians getting hit at crosswalks than when jaywalking.
posted by Flunkie at 5:58 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here is the half-mile route that you must walk in order to get there legally.

I live so close to the grocery store I can hear their PA announcements on a quiet night. And yet it takes me over half an hour to walk there via sidewalks and not taking my own life into my hands.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:06 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


And I live in a city that takes tremendous pride in being green.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:07 AM on May 16, 2013


I'm quite sure that not-middle-aged-parents are worse drivers (I know because insurance tells me so!) but the fact that middle-aged "safe"-driving parents of young children can drive so recklessly, just because it isn't their neighborhood, is terrifying.

The reasons for this, the madness of the school run, is becoming clearer as neurology gets more detailed understanding of the developmental changes in parent's brains. Oxytocin is a hell of a drug. You have probably heard of how it is the trust or love drug in pop media science stories? Well it ramps up in parent brains. And it is more complicated than being a love drug. It is more of an in-group drug. It turbocharges your emotional identification with your immediate in-group but at the same time it actually reduces your empathy for others (and perhaps even fosters paranoia). So those school runners behaving like maniacs and being willing to run over kids in order to get their own children home safely? They're tripping and our exhausting and isolating nuclear family-suburban car oriented lifestyle only facilitates their paranoia and lack of identification with others.
posted by srboisvert at 6:24 AM on May 16, 2013 [10 favorites]


This is another reason why I just want to move out of the city and quit driving cars altogether. Maybe having one less person driving around will make things that much better for people that bike commute and/or walk, either by option or for necessity... *sigh*

As an afterthought I've more than once considered having some sort of camp/outing center/bunkhouse for *insert demographic/problem-type* kids, hell and maybe even getting MsEld's experience in treating problem kids in on the act, that could use a view of green grass, trees, and critters but god knows what sort of liability insurance/certification/hoop jumping that would require.

Anyway, nice post but my cynicism meter and my disappointed-with-society tachometer were already pegged. Pardon me while I go for a grumpy walk in my quite-nice-commercial-office-area-with-a-lake-that-is-also-cut-off-from-nearby-useful-infrastructure. Grarrrrrrrr.
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:29 AM on May 16, 2013


Many of those suburbs and nicer areas have battled fiercely to prevent sidewalks from being put in, because being able to walk somewhere safely is a nice thing no one should have, I guess.

If there are sidewalks, poor people might walk on them. Seriously.
posted by hoyland at 6:29 AM on May 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yes, especially if that wealthy suburb is located between a lower-income neighborhood and a downtown shopping area.
posted by elizardbits at 6:46 AM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


In the (wealthy, suburban) neighborhood I grew up in, the nearest bus stop was juuuuust outside the borders of the development. Attempts to run a bus line through the neighborhood were fought on the grounds that only poor people and teenagers would use it. We did, at least, have a bike path along the main road, along which my neighbors' maids and nannies were commonly seen walking as far as a mile and a half from the bus stop.
posted by nonasuch at 6:50 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I couldn't find the location of the incident in the articles, but it had to be on Buford Highway.

I can't find a link, but it was on Austell Road in Marietta.
posted by deadmessenger at 6:52 AM on May 16, 2013


I have big feet, and I used to go around wearing heavy work shoes with safety caps. You could drop an engine block on them and they wouldn't bend.

Sure, this is a New York story, even more so, it's about Chinatown, where pedestrians do whatever they want and if you don't like it, "Gua gua gua, fuck your face!" But that doesn't mean the principles it contains shouldn't be applied anywhere.

As it happens I was walking east on Grand, crossing Allen in a big crowd, and a tough guy in a silver Mercedes sports car was pushing through the intersection, trying to make the left turn downtown. The flock of pedestrians swore at him as he nosed his way through. The driver must have mistaken me for a break in the crowd because he drove right through me.

I planted a hand on his hood and danced my feet up so he wouldn't snap my knees. Since I was as close to his passing car as a matador's cape, I swung my right foot at it:

CRUNCH!

I had connected! For all the bullshit gestural fist and foot swinging I've done in my life, all the impotent I'm walking here I'M WALKING HEREs I've shouted at traffic, I finally did it! I shattered his luxury taillight!

But I was still angry, and now, so was he. So when he stopped his car in the left lane I ran over to confront him. Every time he tried to open his door I shouted "Get back in your car! Drive away!" and slammed his door shut. It's amazing, if you're outside a car and you don't want someone getting out, it's pretty easily accomplished. I slammed his door eight times before he gave up, and then I rejoined the pedestrian mass and disappeared.

I loved those shoes.

I wish I had more to say à propos of this story. My heart goes out to Ms. Nelson and her family. We blame and punish ourselves enough when we lose a child. For the authorities to pile on her like this is heartless.

Strip away the vehicles with which we armor ourselves. We are all soft, frail, and mostly liquid. Clad in cars, we forget our humanity.

I hope Ms. Nelson and her community can find peace and safety.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 6:56 AM on May 16, 2013 [29 favorites]


(Guys, there's a photo of the area linked right there in the post.)
posted by ceribus peribus at 6:57 AM on May 16, 2013


I'm surprised noone near the top has mentioned JimmyJames' comment about the subway step that causes everybody to trip. It seems like infrastructure that is only designed for cars and not pedestrians (and other forms of transportation) falls afoul of a very similar structural problem.
posted by Phredward at 7:15 AM on May 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


"photo of the area"

Ah. "Austell Road" would place it in Cobb County, which, while not excusing the unmitigated act of barbarism, at least explains it.
posted by Vetinari at 7:26 AM on May 16, 2013


Ice Cream Socialist is my new hero. I used to walk to work, maybe 1/4 mile, and I crossed 5 lanes at a crosswalk, with a light. I was routinely cut off by drivers anxious to make their right on red, on a road with a history of pedestrian fatalities. I got cut off in the intersection, by a police car, a few weeks before I moved. The local school was an easy 1/2 mile walk, through the same intersection, and another busy intersection; kids have to take the bus, because it's too dangerous to be a pedestrian. The police won't take action because "it's too difficult."

Meanwhile, more and more intersections have flattened the curve of the corners to make it easier for cars, and incidentally, more dangerous for pedestrians. Cars are bigger, everybody has A/C, and drivers are insulated from the world outside.

I think there should be paintball ammo in hunter orange, or some bright signature color, marketed to and for pedestrians. Shooting and marking and possibly dinging the cars that threaten you is self-defense. Pedestrians should be able to see at a glance which drivers are especially likely to be assholes.

If you're a driver, stop taking shortcuts through residential areas. Stop for pedestrians when you can safely do so. Set an example.
posted by theora55 at 7:30 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


I ask because I recently (like, past month or so) heard of a study which (if I remember correctly) did not say that, but that could have been easily confused as saying that. Specifically, it was for NYC or maybe just Manhattan, and said something along the lines of "as many people get hit in crosswalks as get hit out of them". Given the vast numbers of people in Manhattan who are crossing in any particular crosswalk, and the relatively small numbers that just nonchalantly stroll across random points in the middle of Fifth Avenue, this absolutely does not imply a higher incidence of pedestrians getting hit at crosswalks than when jaywalking.

When I say "crosswalk," I mean one where pedestrians have to push a button to get right of way, not just any intersection with a pedestrian crossing. Where cars have stop signs and lights that are always there, drivers get used to them. When you've got a crosswalk that often isn't in use by a pedestrian, drivers don't process it in the same way. Pedestrians push the button and cross as if they've got a green light, and don't check to make sure that traffic has seen them.

I'm not sure why you mention Fifth Avenue - there are innumerable small streets that people jaywalk all the time, without walking to an intersection. They pay attention to traffic because they don't expect cars to stop for them.
posted by Dasein at 7:34 AM on May 16, 2013


hoyland: Yep.
posted by nicebookrack at 7:35 AM on May 16, 2013


> The reason there is no demand for sidewalks or crosswalks in richer suburbs, is because the people who live there all have cars and/or drivers.

In the SF Bay Area, the wealthier areas have a lot more call for (& implementation of) traffic calming measures, yet:

> there is literally nothing that will make people slow down if they can't slow down for CHILDREN THEY PERSONALLY KNOW

Los Gatos, CA looks like a "pre-bulldozer" city: gentle hills were built on rather than flattened. The roads are narrow. Many are marked 15, 20 and 25 MPH. Moms walk their kids to school. There's a well attended farmer's market with a lot of pedestrian traffic to far-flung parking because it has a horse-and-carriage, low density layout with little parking. The elderly wander into the street, crossing in lazy diagonals.

And people still drive like maniacs.

I haven't figured out how people aren't hit more.
posted by morganw at 7:45 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Dasein, can you link to a study showing that?

I mention Fifth Avenue because I was being ornamental in my verse.
posted by Flunkie at 7:46 AM on May 16, 2013


No, I'm remembering something I read years ago, but I don't know where I would find it now.
posted by Dasein at 7:50 AM on May 16, 2013


I mean, seriously, there is literally nothing that will make people slow down if they can't slow down for CHILDREN THEY PERSONALLY KNOW.

It happens in the suburbs too. I live in a neighborhood with ~175 other homes and I like to go for walks with my kids. The speed limit is 25mph but it isn't uncommon to see my NEIGHBORS tear assing through easily at excess of 45mph. These same people are perfectly charming at the community pool or other scenarios but they drive like they have a death wish among me and my family. I can't figure out what portion of their brain suppresses the obvious stupidity of their actions.

I've pretty much concluded that cars cause brain damage. It is one of many reasons I ride a bike as often as possible.
posted by dgran at 7:58 AM on May 16, 2013


I mean, seriously, there is literally nothing that will make people slow down if they can't slow down for CHILDREN THEY PERSONALLY KNOW.

Bollards. Nothing like a guaranteed ding to make someone slow down.
posted by ocschwar at 8:05 AM on May 16, 2013




Sometimes people would tell us of relatives with epilepsy or Altzheimer's at this point. The second group would assume a DUI had lead to the loss of her driving license, and that it must have had horrific consequences because this actually happens so infrequently. If we didn't like the person, a cheerily British "but it's OK as cromagnon drives us both to the bar!" was enough to ensure they never spoke to us again.
Anyhow - this sequence of predictable events occurred everywhere we went, and was not noticeably less frequent in Manhattan than in Pittsburgh, central VA or Atlanta.


I don't drive, I've been in NYC 10 years and Boston before that, and no one has ever thought I was disabled or DUI. I'm a bit terrified of driving but I really don't mention it much. I did drive growing up in Northern Virginia but always hated it, doubly so if I had anyone in my car.

I'm not sure but I think your experience is really unusual. NYC is not a driving culture like other parts of the US. It's mostly exciting if someone has a car because you can go to the beach or Costco in NJ. I just had a date with someone last weekend and he offered to drive me home, to the other side of my neighborhood but it seemed absurd to me not to just walk.

On the other hand I was in New Mexico a few years ago and was walking, on sidewalks to get coffee, and people were slowing down to look at me. At night, I walked through downtown Santa Fe and it was so eerie, because people were mostly getting in cars to go places a few blocks away.
posted by sweetkid at 8:13 AM on May 16, 2013



On the other hand I was in New Mexico a few years ago and was walking, on sidewalks to get coffee, and people were slowing down to look at me. At night, I walked through downtown Santa Fe and it was so eerie, because people were mostly getting in cars to go places a few blocks away.


One of my favorite things to do in NM was to walk to the nearest Sonic Burger, stand in one of the parking spots, and make an order.
posted by ocschwar at 8:15 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


One of my favorite things to do in NM was to walk to the nearest Sonic Burger, stand in one of the parking spots, and make an order.

The only ATM in my neighborhood is a drive-up. I'm sure I've gotten some funny looks walking up to it. I've never had to wait my turn between two cars, but I'm sure that day will come.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:27 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


One of my favorite things to do in NM was to walk to the nearest Sonic Burger, stand in one of the parking spots, and make an order.

If you don't crouch down and go "vroom vroom" when the server brings your food out, you fail.
posted by Etrigan at 8:39 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


>So I have no problem at all believing that drivers just don't see pedestrians.

Yeah, that has been my experience in my fairly car-friendly town. I live just off of a major street, in the midst of a stretch of over a mile (1.7 km, in fact) where there is nothing facing the street except a half-dozen houses -- everything else is high, solid fences that form the backyards of houses on the cul-de-sacs, the entrances to the cul-de-sacs, or the backs of big box stores. There is a sidewalk, mirabile dictu, and although I spend maybe half-an-hour walking in it every day, I would say twice a week I see someone else walking (and then, usually walking a dog). I genuinely think that drivers pay as much attention to pedestrians as I might to sparrows sitting on a telephone wire. They just do not register.

>But I was still angry, and now, so was he. So when he stopped his car in the left lane I ran over to confront him.

One of the most rewarding moments of a lifetime of walking around was crossing (with the light, by the way) at Queen and Peter in Toronto. As I stepped across Peter, a driver turning onto Queen employed the classic turn-right-while-looking-left tactic and just about took my toes off. I rapped twice on his passenger side window to remind him to look around and continued on my way, walking behind his car. As I stepped around the car, I could hear him rolling down the window to shout at me for touching his car, but I was no longer there. He then worked out that I was behind his car, and figured an eye-for-an-eye was the solution, I guess (or possibly vehicular-manslaughter-for-a-knock), so I could here him shifting into reverse to run me over.

By the time he had the car in reverse, I was past him, but he didn't realize this, and he backed up straight into two skinhead pedestrians who apparently knew nothing of the situation. They made him aware of their presence in short order, and he elected to drive away at speed.

>Anyhow - this sequence of predictable events occurred everywhere we went

I was in the US some years ago and saw a listing for an auction that seemed to have some interesting items, so I decided to attend.

At the registration booth, you had to buy a bidding card for a dollar. The woman seated behind the desk told me I had to fill out a registration form and show her some ID to take part. I filled out the card and handed it back.

Me: "What sort of ID?"

She: "Driver's license."

Me: "I don't have one. Passport OK?"

She:"What do you mean you don't have one?"

Me: "Precisely that -- I do not have a license. Can I show you my passport?"

She: "That is crazy. What do you show the cops when they pull your car over?"

Me: "... er, my winning smile, because I am sitting in the passenger seat."

She: "You mean you don't drive?"

Me: "That's right."

She: "Why not?"

Me: "Any number of reasons, none of which are relevant right now."

She: "That is crazy. What state are you from?"

Me: "I am not from any state -- I am Canadian."

She: "And they let you across the border with no driver's license?"

Me: :Yes."

She: "That is insane."

Me: "Possibly so, but look at the flip side: I am standing here trying to buy a piece of cardboard from you for a dollar with the government-issued photo ID I have in my hand, and apparently international travel is easier than buying a piece of cardboard with a number on it."

She relented, clucking and shaking her head the whole time. I have little doubt she still tells that story as well.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:40 AM on May 16, 2013 [22 favorites]


Depending upon how the conversations started, we would sometimes just say we didn't have a car (which, thanks to my fascination with buying big 1970s American cars, was occasionally true). This was, of course, never met with any surprise at all in Manhattan - she may as well have said we had walls in our house - but was met with shock almost everywhere else. And not infrequently the assumption that we were legally unable to drive as foreigners, or couldn't get credit, or were too poor, and so forth. But being unable to drive, as opposed to choosing not to, was definitely surprising. I think New Yorkers encounter the unusual most days so the reactions were, on an absolute scale, smaller.
posted by cromagnon at 8:41 AM on May 16, 2013


See a map of pedestrian fatalities in your neighborhood.

I was not that surprised to discover that all the fatalities in my neighborhood are along obvious, really poorly designed stretches of road. Even fairly busy streets can be safe if they are designed to keep traffic calm.
posted by miyabo at 8:42 AM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


One of my favorite things to do in NM was to walk to the nearest Sonic Burger, stand in one of the parking spots, and make an order.
...
The only ATM in my neighborhood is a drive-up. I'm sure I've gotten some funny looks walking up to it. I've never had to wait my turn between two cars, but I'm sure that day will come.


I keep a list in my head of which food drive-throughs will be recognized by my bicycle - if I can't get it working, I essentially can't order without problematic solutions.

And pretty frequently I'm in line at the drive-through for the ATM, left arm leaning against the building itself, between cars. They're usually pretty good about it, mainly because I'm faster than a car at the ATM itself.

Although not infrequently I will forgot my satchel bag and bike away with my bank card & cash clenched between my teeth because it's a hassle getting at my wallet without extra time.
posted by Lemurrhea at 8:50 AM on May 16, 2013


Also, not all of the US is that terrible. There are large swaths of non-NYC cities -- Seattle, Portland, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Madison, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Boston, the Bay Area -- where it is totally normal for middle-class people to not drive, or to drive very very little. Here's a list.. Basically any city built before the invention of the car is liveable without a car, and has at least ten or fifteen percent car-free households. I was in that camp myself for years and years but eventually had to buy a car in order to take a really great job in the suburbs.
posted by miyabo at 8:53 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


I live in a peaceful suburb where the kids play outside in the street (cul-de-sac) with such regularity that you can actually see them on Google Street View. Kids actually do walk to school here. And yet, the sidewalk coverage is so spotty -- there are 5 grocery stores within 2 miles, and I can only walk to one of them, and it's the one where prices are 20%-80% higher than anywhere else. So I load my kids into the car to go grocery shopping, which kills me, but if I want to walk to the Safeway, I have to do it in the middle of the street -- there's not even a shoulder, just a two lane road with a deep ditch on either side. There's a fresh fruit and vegetable market exactly one mile from my house with stellar prices, such a boon if you're broke, and it is currently impossible to walk to, because the 45-mph-speed-limit road it's on loses its sidewalk for 65 feet. The city is changing that, but it is taking a looooong time.
posted by KathrynT at 8:54 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


And many rich people choose to live in suburbs without sidewalks or crosswalks, so it's not obvious that walkability is a rich/poor issue.

It's not a rich/poor issue, but it is a culture-of-cars issue vs people-who-can't-or-won't-buy-them issue.

True story. There is an area of NYC which is very car-centric - perhaps the only non-walkable area - Staten Island. I have family there. My partner and kid are avid hikers. At some point, we came up with the brilliant idea to have a family hike in part of the Greenbelt. We would walk to the park, hike around in it, then walk back.

This was apparently crazy and surreal to people who saw us. As we got closer, we found there were no sidewalks in portions of the area on the way up to the park. We shrugged, had the kiddo go a bit off the road, and kept going.

When we got there, we ran into another person who said - "I saw you walking when I was driving up, and wondered what was going on! I'm so glad I ran into you and that everything is okay!"

Because the idea that people might not choose to use a car is so foreign that they cannot even conceive of it. Walking is foreign I can only imagine what kind of mental stretches they might need to imagine to conceive of people who can't afford a car.

This situation, when I heard about it, boiled my blood. I'm glad it was reduced to probation, but I would have much preferred her to get a public apology and an announcement in the newspapers that they screwed up.
posted by corb at 9:11 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


miyabo, as someone who lives in one of the cities higher up on that list I've got to say that trying to determine whether a city is walkable by the percentage of inhabitants without cars is going to give you a lot of false positives. A lot of those cities are just suffering from endemic poverty, and it doesn't make them not pedestrian-hostile.
posted by invitapriore at 9:11 AM on May 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


the general sentiment around here was that she SHOULD have been on trial for endangering her son.

It sure wasn’t around here, but I’m on the other side of town.
posted by bongo_x at 9:15 AM on May 16, 2013


> Anyhow - this sequence of predictable events occurred everywhere we went, and was not noticeably less frequent in Manhattan than in Pittsburgh, central VA or Atlanta.

?!?

I live in New York City.

My wife doesn't drive and as far as I know only one or two friends have any idea this is so - because it just NEVER comes up. I'm trying to think if I know even ONE person who has a car... OK, I know two, both of whom live way out in Queens.

What sort of people do you know who have cars in Manhattan? Why would you do that to yourself?

And in particular, what sort of bizarre NYC subculture do you live in where everyone not only has cars, but doesn't even know anyone who doesn't have a car?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:10 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


And in particular, what sort of bizarre NYC subculture do you live in where everyone not only has cars, but doesn't even know anyone who doesn't have a car?

Staten Island.
posted by ocschwar at 10:12 AM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


The OP of that comment mentioned manhattan in particular
posted by sweetkid at 10:19 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Weirdly enough there appear to be plenty of residents on my west village block who own cars. I cannot for the life of me fathom why, especially since they have to spend 2-3 hours every other morning sitting in them and waiting for the street sweepers to go by so that they can move their car for 30 seconds and then engage in a traffic fight to the death in order to get their precious parking spot back. I will grant that perhaps a certain percentage of them work outside the city in areas in which public transit availability is limited, but if so, how do they have so much time off to sit around in their cars waiting for the sweepers? It is a mystery.
posted by elizardbits at 10:22 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also in another article I was reading earlier today about the CitiBike program, one of the complainers quoted in the article made the specific point that the rolling-out of the program would limit WVill parking and inconvenience him when he drove into the city from Park Slope, which is unbearably hilarious to me, considering all the subway lines that go directly from the slope to the village.

in conclusion manhattan is a land of contrasts
posted by elizardbits at 10:25 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ever since I came to Japan, I've enjoyed walking & biking out in town. The drivers are, in general, eerily aware of you as a pedestrian and motion you to cross 98% of the time they happen to glimpse you. There are bridges crossing over busy intersections and crosswalks at random spots (in front of a grocery store maybe, for example).

The only place where it's dangerous for me to walk or bike is on the American military base, where people see me and still can't wait for me to pass before taking the turn or trying to park. Or where I'm respected on foot but sometimes have to play "who has the bigger balls" on a bicycle at intersections. I've had to ride out while staring someone down as I cross in front of them. Show a moment's weakness even when you have the right-of-way and cars just leap out and then follow each other out, and out, and out like a train as if making a break for it.

This isn't just a city planning issue or a car entitlement issue, but it's a big part, the root, of it. As people have noted above, it's about people who are supposedly too busy on their way to whereever to care.
posted by DisreputableDog at 10:36 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


While not diminishing the tragedy of a child's death, I do find it ironic that Raquel Nelson is a terrible driver herself
posted by Debaser626 at 10:40 AM on May 16, 2013




Here's another paper about the effectiveness of high visibility beacons.

There's a lot of research being done on the side of pedestrian behavior which helps engineers and planners understand the why.

Complete Streets is supposed to help design a transportation system that can be used safety by everybody, but it's become really antagonistic in part because of the car/anti-car fight. There's room for everybody if you really want it.

/your local transportation librarian
posted by kendrak at 12:02 PM on May 16, 2013 [7 favorites]


My town tried a crosswalk where little lights were embedded in the street to mark it. They took it out. I think winter snow removal scraped them out of the pavement. They are now trying a program where bright flags are in cans on both sides of the street and you are supposed to carry them when you cross. I think this addresses the reality that cars feel the street is theirs and don't like sharing it with peds and bikes. It makes me sad, though, to think the impetus on keeping yourself safe in a crosswalk is on you to carry this stupid flag.

Beyond that, two of the poorest areas in town also have some of the highest foot traffic. One of them has more peds on the road than cars and it doesn't even have a sidewalk never mind a crosswalk. The other has a high speed road going right through all the residential, school, and business areas. People barely slow down for the minimal crosswalks placed about every quarter mile. If you stop your car to let someone carrying that flag over to the other side, you run the risk of being rear-ended.

My town could do a lot more for it's poorer pedestrians.
posted by Foam Pants at 12:13 PM on May 16, 2013


I don't know what the law is in Georgia or in how many states this is the case, but in Washington, crosswalks are basically a section of roadway (where markings might go) just before the intersection wherever two roads meet, marked or unmarked, unless there is specifically a sign prohibiting pedestrian crossing. I tell this to people and so many don't realize that unmarked crosswalks are still crosswalks and cars are obligated to stop (though they often don't). We (when pedestrians) have ceded so many rights to we (when driving) that I insist on this one. I will often not walk a couple blocks out of my way to get to a signaled crosswalk as a matter principle. I should NOT have to walk an extra four blocks to get to my destination just because people don't know they should yield at unmarked crosswalks. Fortunately, I live in relatively central Seattle where this is a reasonable position to take.
posted by R343L at 12:42 PM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ice Cream Socialist: It's amazing, if you're outside a car and you don't want someone getting out, it's pretty easily accomplished.

Be careful if you decide to repeat this "moment of glory". It sounds very similar to the circumstances that lead to the death of Darcy Allen Shephard. Rightly or Wrongly, his killer was let off because the AG decided that the cyclist's threats posed an imminent danger (wrongly).
posted by Popular Ethics at 2:41 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


...so I took to slapping the back of the car...

Uh, yeah... I stopped doing that when the driver left his car in the middle of heavy traffic and chased me for quite a ways.

This prosecution is unconscionably and the list of social problems surrounding the occurrence seem all very pertinent, but I do sometimes feel like lecturing parents about teaching their children safe crossing habits.

Where is technology, we almost have robot cars, why not an electronic governor that limits speed near schools and other areas? (no, wait, guns and fast cars are a god given right, right there in the Constitution).
posted by sammyo at 3:10 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've been looking for a good place to dump this load of frustration, and here seems like as good a place as any.

Since I was a child, I've known that the world was out to get pedestrians. Most places aren't designed to accommodate your existence. And drivers are often some mixture of ignorant, woefully unobservant, entitled, and actively homicidal.

I've been a pedestrian for most of my life. I learned to drive late (at age 22), and I've only worked at jobs that were too close to drive to, or that wouldn't allow me to park anywhere. So I walked to work. Now, I walk and take the bus. We have one car, and my husband needs it to get to his job in a neighboring town.

When I lived in Raleigh NC, I walked downtown to my workplace, and I was nearly run over on a regular basis ... at crosswalks! I always obey crosswalk signals, and I only jaywalk if there is no other option. It doesn't matter, I've come very close to death too many times for me to count. But I love this fantasy that drivers will obey crosswalks! Ha ha, it is to laugh! But even scarier, I've only had one person express any kind of horror that he nearly killed me. Everyone else was just pissed I existed, and maybe that I almost sullied their pretty cars with my organ meat and bone shards.

Furthermore, I now understand why people completely give up on crosswalks. The reasoning is: If you jaywalk between intersections, you have to worry about cars coming from two directions (most likely). If you try to cross at a crosswork, you potentially have to worry about people running through the crosswalk, and people right- or left-turning over you, without looking AT ALL where they are going. It doesn't matter too much whether there's a stop sign, or a stoplight, or a walk signal. You're putting a lot of faith in other people when you step into a crosswalk, and you can only hope no one decides that's the red light they're going to run. Or the time they aren't going to check before they turn right over you.

Right now, I live in Durham, and I take the bus to work. It's a laborious pain in the ass to get there, but getting back is worse. I can either choose the bus stop right next to my workplace, and take a 100 minute bus ride all around the world before I finally end up at Durham Station. Or I can run across Apex Highway right here, and get to a stop that will get me to the station in 40 minutes or so. (Google Street View makes that place look relatively sedate, but it's absolutely not. If you look around that map, you can see there's a exit for I-40 that is south of my bus stop, so traffic only rarely ceases from either direction.)

If I do choose to cross the highway, I can jaywalk, and get to a bus stop on a sidewalk. Or I can walk down the road to a terrifying, useless "crosswalk", and access a bus stop located on a worn-down patch of grass next to a frigging guardrail. It apparently wasn't constructed when Google Maps came through Durham, but here is about where that horrible bus stop is, as I recall.

Eventually, I get to the station. Then I can take the free bus to a stop that's about a mile from my house. Then I walk that mile home. And while all this is ridiculous and absurd, other people go through a lot worse just to get to work, school, and to the grocery store. Pedestrians, bus riders, bike riders, etc have to accept a ludicrous amount of risk, just to get their regular life stuff done.

I almost always have taken the longer bus route, because I don't want to die. However, when I'm fall-down tired from work, and all I want to do is be home as soon as possible, and I know I'm going to have to walk a mile even after I'm done with buses for the day... I really understand people who tear across the highway on foot, and hope for the best.
posted by Coatlicue at 3:12 PM on May 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


Over here, we have those delightful zebra crossings, and they've been putting even more around my neighourhood, which is awesome, because now I have like a dozen places to cross the street without getting run over.

But I still see people jaywalking, and we're talking like two yards from a zebra crossing. And I don't get it.

(Of course, jaywalking's legal here, but we also have a lot of douchebags who speed around like it's Fast & Furious 7: Nottingham Drift, so you could be crossing where it's illegal for them to not stop, or you could just jaywalk and risk getting hit. What.)
posted by Katemonkey at 3:31 PM on May 16, 2013


> if you jaywalk between intersections, you have to worry about cars coming from two directions (most likely)

Mid-block crossing is safer.

Jaywalking was invented. There was a time where you could just cross a street and horses wouldn't trample you.
posted by morganw at 4:52 PM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


There was a time where you could just cross a street and horses wouldn't trample you.

Well, I’m not so sure about that.
posted by bongo_x at 5:20 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


A very good 99% Invisible on the invention of jaywalking, for those few of you who don't already subscribe.
posted by Etrigan at 5:47 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


sammyo: "Where is technology, we almost have robot cars, why not an electronic governor that limits speed near schools and other areas?"

This would be an incredibly difficult problem on several fronts. I see two ways of doing this. Either some sort of transmitter installed round schools or a GPS map system embedded in every car.

First off with either system you'd have to install your magic governating box in every car in the county/state/country. Not all cars even have cruise control and that works the wrong way so with the exception of the newest cars with drive by wire throttles you'll also have to install some sort of mechanical interface to limit top speed. Considering the cost of aftermarket market alarms figure $300-$500 per car at least. And it's got to be extremely reliable because it has to fail off.

Second the automatic governing system is fraught with perils. If you depend on road side transmitters you'd have to have some sort of very robust encryption system to discourge people spoofing the signals. And you'd have to have very tamper resistance transmitters to stop people stealing the transmitters. And you'd have to have some method of revoking stolen/cloned transmitters. And the transmitters have to have some sort of crazy granularity to control the speed of a frontage road without affecting the cars traveling on the freeway next to it. You'd also need to handle variations in school schedules though maybe the way to do this is to take a que from Alberta and make every school zone a playground zone.

If instead you use some sort of GPS+mapping software you need something that is updateable to handle school openings, closings, schedule changes and errors. And you better hope to hell you never make a major mistake that accidentally speed limits a busy highway somewhere. You also need to figure out how to prevent spoofed GPS signals from allowing anyone to bring traffic on any road to a 30km/h crawl.

Finally who is going to pay for this? Even if you put the burden of installing the governor on car owners you'd still have to fund the infrastructure to develop and maintain whatever system you propose. And you can't even eliminate signage because still have to maintain the signage to control out of county/state/country vehicles.
posted by Mitheral at 6:16 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


sammyo: "I stopped doing that when the driver left his car in the middle of heavy traffic and chased me for quite a ways. "

Ya, well, small town Canada; that kind of thing is generally less of an issue.
posted by Mitheral at 6:21 PM on May 16, 2013


"Where is technology, we almost have robot cars, why not an electronic governor that limits speed near schools and other areas?"


You don't need any of that.

Step 1: narrow the roads. People instintively (and correctly) slow down on narrow roads.

Step 2: line them with bollards, trees, mail boxes, et cetera.

Step 3: enjoy your safer community.

It's all you need. Step 1 will cause 90% of drivers to slow down. Step 2 will teach the remaining to slow down, ding by ding and dent by dent.
posted by ocschwar at 6:28 PM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, Dutch traffic design -- traffic calming, passive engineering, and generally becoming more car-hostile than pedestrian-hostile -- works quite well. That's why it's politically impossible in much of the US, of course.
posted by dhartung at 7:05 PM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


My local paper's traffic blog published this quiz today. I'm sure that the majority of drivers around here would fail it.
posted by octothorpe at 7:39 PM on May 16, 2013


Step 1: narrow the roads. People instintively (and correctly) slow down on narrow roads.

Step 2: line them with bollards, trees, mail boxes, et cetera.


Minneapolis went a step further and took out a lane (and I think narrowed the remaining lanes) from these two massive one way streets that people drive down at ridiculous speeds. How do you take out a lane? Turn it into a massive bike lane. From the cyclist perspective, it's pretty amazing.
posted by hoyland at 8:12 PM on May 16, 2013


I hear ya, Coatlicue. I didn't get my license until age 32 and I still don't have a car. In my small bike-friendly town, where I walk constantly, you still get idjits who will decide, as you are in the middle of the crosswalk, to start driving forward right at you. Recently I was in LA and stayed at a hotel that was 4 blocks from where I was planning to do things (USC area), so I didn't drive there. Which was great. But the crosswalks....what is with people trying to SPEED doing a LEFT HAND TURN while people are in the middle of a crosswalk? Why is not one bus, but two busses, trying to run people over in the crosswalk by insisting on taking a right turn on red when they could hit multiple people?

As you point out, jaywalking only means you have to worry about people going straight, not turning directly into you. And it's easier to time your bolt-across-the-street when there's a break in the traffic, which doesn't really fly at a crosswalk.

I perpetually run at crosswalks. Some people yell at me for not "taking my time" (what time? I got like 3 seconds before the crosswalk tells me to stop moving!) and "what if I trip and fall in the middle of the intersection because I was running?" I am far more concerned about still being in the crosswalk when the car wants to GO GO GO, thanks, and if they want to hit me, they'll do it even if I'm upright. Cars have the right of way, not pedestrians, no matter what the law supposedly says.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:11 PM on May 16, 2013


Uh, yeah... I stopped doing that when the driver left his car in the middle of heavy traffic and chased me for quite a ways.

I know that guy! I was on my bike near the curb when he decided to turn right from the left lane. Signals are for the weak. As he swerved in front of me and nearly took my front wheel with him, I dodged around him and gave him a quick openhanded thump on his trunk to remind him that others existed. He slammed on his brakes 45 degrees through his turn, shouted, "You fucking fuck, you fucking touched my fucking car!" and pursued me on foot for a half-block down Harbord Street. Only the honks from other drivers summoned him back to his abandoned car.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:58 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just snapped this picture of one of the crosswalks that I go over to get to work every day. Lovely, huh? I can't count the number of times that I've almost been run over by some asshole who blows through the red-light. It would be nice if the city painted the cross-walk lines more often than every decade too.
posted by octothorpe at 6:34 AM on May 17, 2013


So I am starting a project where I take pictures of drivers who are dangerous dumbshits. It will be a running theme on my blog, where my cats will insult the fuck out of the drivers in the pictures. I could take it a step farther and take photos of their license plates and put their name out on the internet as a dangerous dumbshit, but based on the reactions of drivers I took pictures of yesterday, my chances of gettin' a beating or losing my phone are somewhat elevated, so I think I'll leave out the license plates. Depends on my anger levels.

Join me, my pedestrian friends! Together, let us shame them all.
posted by angrycat at 6:57 AM on May 17, 2013 [4 favorites]



I know that guy! I was on my bike near the curb when he decided to turn right from the left lane. Signals are for the weak. As he swerved in front of me and nearly took my front wheel with him, I dodged around him and gave him a quick openhanded thump on his trunk to remind him that others existed. He slammed on his brakes 45 degrees through his turn, shouted, "You fucking fuck, you fucking touched my fucking car!" and pursued me on foot for a half-block down Harbord Street. Only the honks from other drivers summoned him back to his abandoned car.


Remember, if this guy chases you, the safest place to be is IN HIS CAR. Lead him in a circle around his car, get in the driver's seat first, slam it and lock.
posted by ocschwar at 7:24 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Remember, if this guy chases you, the safest place to be is IN HIS CAR. Lead him in a circle around his car, get in the driver's seat first, slam it and lock.

Aside from the fact that this could very well lead to charges of stealing the car, how certain are you likely to be at that point that someone else inside the car won't also beat the shit out of you? The safest place to be is (for a pedestrian) on the sidewalk, moving the opposite direction of where the car is pointing, or inside a public establishment. If you're on a bike, 99 percent of the drivers who might react like this won't be able to catch up to you anyway, and you've lost your bike when you get into the car.
posted by Etrigan at 8:11 AM on May 17, 2013


Over here, we have those delightful zebra crossings, and they've been putting even more around my neighourhood, which is awesome, because now I have like a dozen places to cross the street without getting run over.

But I still see people jaywalking, and we're talking like two yards from a zebra crossing. And I don't get it.


I lived in Birmingham and was stunned that people wouldn't cross mid-block where traffic was just bi-directional and predictable. Why anyone would ever cross near a roundabout or an intersection in the UK completely escapes me.
posted by srboisvert at 10:20 AM on May 17, 2013


hoyland, which streets are you talking about?

I live near the intersection of Minnehaha/Franklin/Cedar and that intersection scares me to death every time I bike through it.
posted by MetalFingerz at 11:25 AM on May 17, 2013


If you're on a bike, 99 percent of the drivers who might react like this won't be able to catch up to you anyway, and you've lost your bike when you get into the car.

I was indeed on a bike, so I continued on my way. I am not a small guy and while I have not thrown a punch in anger since I mixed it up on the playground with Hughie Wilson at age eight, I can apparently be a little intimidating (a week ago I asked a chatty guy in the row behind me at a movie to please stop talking and he shrank in his seat, kept silent for the remaining ninety minutes, and apologized after the movie). However, I figured that if the guy chasing me tackled me on a bike there would a whole lotta scraping going on when I hit the ground -- it was summer, I was in a T-shirt and shorts -- so I sped up and listened to his footfalls and imprecations both slowly growing fainter behind me*. However, I knew that at some point he most have returned to the car and I thought it prudent to dismount and walk my bike through the university campus at that point lest he decide to cruise the streets for a bit to settle the argument in a vehicular fashion.

*Not for a while, though: I must give him credit that he kept up a good pace for most of a block while screaming. Shouting does cut into the oxygen supply, though, so I guess he had to pack it in before he could go fully all alpha male.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:54 PM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here's a poor neighborhood in Asheville, people are constantly walking along this road at all hours

Asheville wraps its housing projects and poor neighbourhoods in interstates to create de facto walled ghettoes. Deaverview is actually benign by comparison with Hillcrest, which has a single gated road entrance. For a long time, the bridge over I-240 that provided a direct pedestrian route into town was closed because of "safety" concerns (drug deals, assaults) which meant that people walked across the interstate instead. And some of them got killed.

Outside of a few cities in the US, demanding the right to walk safely is actually a sign that your concerns can be ignored.
posted by holgate at 9:17 AM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


hoyland, which streets are you talking about?

Park and Portland, between Franklin (I think, maybe it starts further north) and 46th. They also moved it to the right hand bike lane. I think it's a big improvement, though people definitely turn into the bike lane.
posted by hoyland at 10:36 AM on May 23, 2013


Here's a followup to the Raquel Nelson case, linked above. The homicide charges were dropped.
posted by deadmessenger at 5:36 AM on June 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


« Older Chicago High School Students Open Manufacturing...   |   Basically every classic game and system in your... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments