November 19, 2009

Dangerous by Design

By Elisa | 4 Comments »

Well, Birmingham has made the rankings again…this time as the 8th most dangerous cities for Pedestrians (according to Transportation for America.

I wish I were surprised.

I dug a little deeper into this study and looked at Table 5: State Pedestrian Fatalities and Federal Spending on Walking and Biking

Alabama did a bit better here, with 6.6% of traffic deaths that were Pedestrian (2007-2008). However, we only spend 1.4% of Total Federal Funding Spent on Pedestrian & Bicycle Projects (2005-2008), coming in at $1.80 Spending per Capita under SAFETEA-LU (2005-2008). Sigh.

2 weeks ago I returned a rental car and walked home the 2 miles from the rental company. On my way home I saw a woman with 2 small children walking the wrong way down a one way street in the road, due to a lack of sidewalks. Less than a minute later a man in a wheelchair was riding in the road as well. This is a heavily trafficked road that is an artery for the city. There are bus stops along the road, but no sidewalks or shoulder.

Saturday morning we led a bike tour of community gardens in Birmingham. 36(!) riders came out and we took to the roads. It was glorious…until our friend Katie was hit by a car who pulled out directly in front of her. Katie was not even on her radar. It was daylight, Katie was following all traffic rules, but the driver wasn’t looking for her at all so hit her straight on.

I am sure this happens everywhere, but it seems that in a city with nearly no bike infrastructure, it happens more frequently. If drivers are not made aware that cyclists are out there they don’t look. A few “Share the Road” signs would at least give the impression that cyclists are on the roads, even if there aren’t many. A sidewalk on a street connecting a poorer neighborhood to the city center, where there are jobs, should be a priority.

Birmingham, want more cyclists/pedestrians and a less car-centric culture? Make it safer. Studies have shown that more bike infrastructure raises the number of cyclists on the roads. With our poverty and obesity levels, not even touching the pollution rate, bikes on the road is what we need. Having a car is not a right, it should not be a necessity to live and work. Our city is made so that for many the other options are unsafe. Help us out. Please.

What are your thoughts? Is your city this way at all?

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  1. On November 19th, 2009 Steve A said:

    My commute route (multiple cities in North Texas) is exactly this way. I ride more assertively in self defense. 5000 miles so far this year with no close calls. In my OWN personal opinion, I favor prioritizing pedestrian infrastructure over anything for bikes. We get people walking and they’ll also feel better about riding. You don’t have walkers, you won’t have riders even if there are bike lanes/paths everywhere. I’m not sure why this is so, but I’d sure like to hear why.

    BTW, I LOVE the seasonal adjustment to the picture on the masthead!

  2. On November 20th, 2009 Matt said:

    Bravo! This study is making waves across the country. I suggest you attend the next City Council meeting and find out how many of your electeds have heard of it or better yet read it.

    Start carrying a camera (if you don’t already) and take pictures of pedestrians and disabled dealing with the city infrastructure – and get them in the paper. Take pictures of bus stops with no sidewalks and crossings, too.

    Shame can be a powerful force.

  3. On November 24th, 2009 ksteinhoff said:

    I always wonder if motorists read Share the Road signs as being directed at bikes, meaning “Share the Road with my car by getting the bleep out of my way.”

    I’d rather see them say, “Yield to bicycles and peds.”

    Or “Human-Power Vehicles Have Right of Way”

    Or “Minimum 3-Feet Passing Distance”

  4. On November 24th, 2009 Elisa said:

    K-that is an interesting thought. I like the yield idea a lot.

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