The plight of pedestrians
Flickr photo by Liz Patek. "Twenty is Plenty For Us," is an advocacy initiative in the UK promoting lower speed limits to promote pedestrian safety.
For all the same kinds of reasons that transportation policy "disrespects" cyclists vis-a-vis motor vehicles because of a failure to have differentiated transportation policies and practices that are appropriate for sustainable transportation/cities and towns versus the policies we have which almost uniformly favor motor vehicles, pedestrians are dis-served by transportation policy also.
Traffic regulations and metropolitan transportation policy favor motor vehicles, even in cities, where walking is often the predominate mode.
See "After six injuries in three days, police and bike advocates urge safety on Arundel roads" and "Engineering environments for pedestrian safety" from the Baltimore Sun, "Changing Skyline: Pedestrian safety is becoming a focus" from the Philadelphia Inquirer, and "Maryland to lower speed limit, expand speed cameras on troubled stretch of Route 1" from the Washington Post.
I write about this a lot, but since pedestrians still get killed, it's worth repeating.
1. Cars are engineered to go very fast.
2. Roads are designed, regardless of context, to allow cars to be driven at high speeds.
3. In places where pedestrians dominate, even when posted speeds are reduced, cars are still capable of being driven at high speeds and road engineering allows this.
4. So pedestrians die.
It's a form of what I call "designing conflict in," where the conditions are created through planning, design, and engineering to create problems instead of solve them.
That's why I recommend the "radical" step of re-engineering pavements in cities and towns, especially in commercial districts and around civic assets such as schools, parks, and libraries and other places where pedestrians predominate, so that road materials better match land context conditions for walking. Streets adjacent to college campuses, like the section of Route 1 in College Park, Maryland, adjacent to the University of Maryland, is another obvious place where pavement materials need to be chosen in a manner that is congruent with the land use context there.
The Smart Transportation Guidebook is has a good discussion about this broad issue, although it doesn't make the conceptual jump to include pavement types within a toolbox of choices.
And a good example of how to do this by expanding the use of asphalt block or other types of pavers, such as how Monument Avenue in Richmond is paved. The pavement provides visual, aural, and physical cues that motor vehicle operators should drive slower and they do.
I didn't realize that in the 1960s the intent was to asphalt over the pavement on Monument Avenue, but a neighborhood activist, Helen Marie Taylor, "faced down" the paving machines, and this motivated a group of Richmonders to support her, and the plans to pave over the street were dashed ("To Preserve and Protect," Style Weekly).
Another strategy is to reduce the legal operating speeds for motor vehicles in cities generally and in neighborhoods specifically. I was thinking about this a few months ago when I paused to walk across the street on my block, to wait for a car to go by.
I realized that I was deferring to the motor vehicle, even though my street is 100% residential, when the motor vehicles should be deferring to the pedestrian. Just as bicyclists should be deferring to pedestrians, riding more slowly on sidewalks than the speed at which pedestrians can walk.
Graz, Austria pioneered systematic reduction in motor vehicle speed limits in the early 1990s, changing all their speed limits to either 30 kph or 50 kph (50 kph is approximately 31 mph). More recently, New York City has create "Neighborhood Slow Zones" for residential streets, where the posted speed limit is 20 mph.
The standard speed limit on NYC streets is 30 mph. In DC it is 25 mph while in the old days on residential streets it was 15 mph. Under the Gray Administration, speed limits have been increased, in favor of motor vehicles, on many residentially-serving arterials.
Monument Avenue, Richmond
7th Street SE in front of Eastern Market, Washington, DC
South Carolina Avenue SE, Washington, DC
High Street (in brick), Cambridge, Maryland
Neighborhood Slow Zone signage, Bronx, New York City. (Image from Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito, District 8)