On the 1st day of safety myths, my DOT gave to me....

vests on walkers
© Jonathan Fertig/ Do the bright thing

Planner Don Kostelec explains everything about how screwed transportation safety is.

Ah, memories... after I used a famous painting by Gustave Caillebotte to illustrate a flâneur, architect Jonathan Fertig fixed it for me by giving them all yellow safety vests. Now planner Don Kostelec uses it in the first of his brilliant series:

On the 1st day of Safety Myths, my DOT gave to me….bright, reflective vests!

He complains about the silliness of these campaigns to get pedestrians to Do the Bright Thing, as they say in Toronto. In fact, the vests don't do very much because of the way headlights on cars are aimed; beyond thirty feet, headlights are cutting off below a person's waist level. Pedestrians should really be wearing yellow pants. And most cars and trucks do not have their headlights properly set.
So, while you are quick to see traffic safety offices and their campaigns telling pedestrians and bicyclists to wear bright clothing, what you don’t see is those same offices telling drivers to make sure they buy vehicles with adequate headlights. If a highway safety office is as balanced as they claim to be, then it’s a reasonable request that they also remind motorists of things like this.

On the 2nd Day of Safety Myths, my DOT gave to me… magical force field paint!

St. ClairWelcome to my neighborhood/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0
On the second day, Kostelec looks at paint. Basically, it is not enough.
The idea that paint is a solution for a safety issue is probably the single worst default position a designer can take. I look back on projects and plans I was involved with during my less-enlightened days and think, “I can’t believe I actually recommended a sharrow.” Or, “Why did I mention nothing more than adding a crosswalk?”

On the 4th day of Safety Myths, my DOT gave to me… shared responsibility!

tale of the tape© Don Kostelec

This one is my favourite.

A child, all of 100 pounds, is mowed down by a person driving a 4,500-pound pickup truck. What will you likely hear from police officers, highway safety engineers, Governors Highway Safety Association, and state DOTs? “Now, remember, children, safety is a shared responsibility!”

Kostelec does that math.

Let’s start with the mass of the two objects that are expected to share this responsibility. One is at least 4,500 pounds and produces 81,000 joules at 20 mph. The others weigh 100 pounds each, producing 40 joules at 3 mph. Joules are a measurement of kinetic energy based on a function of weight and mass. It’s the transfer of kinetic energy that kills people in a crash.

a shared responsiblility© Alberta Transportation says safety is a shared responsibility

We have discussed this a lot on TreeHugger, and I always get yelled at in comments. "We seem to have a culture – expounded by Treehugger – that no matter what happens to you it is never your fault. A sensible person takes some responsibility for their own safety. This is not victim blaming, it is advocating sensible precautions."

But as Don Kostelec notes, the power and the responsibility clearly are with the driver.

Shared responsibility on the road isn’t a valid expectation of people who walk and bike until they are given equal consideration in road design and equal opportunity to move safely throughout the system.

I miss the wonderful rock in the Calgary parking lot, surrounded by high viz curbs, that cars kept getting stuck on. Someone should have told that rock that, in Alberta, safety is a shared responsibility.

On the 6th Day of Safety Myths, my DOT gave to me… AASHTO Standards!

This is fun, pointing out that the bible of road design that all the engineers throw around is in fact a book of guidelines.

“AASHTO standards” is a phrase used all the time when transportation agencies write their reports, produce their public meeting materials, and ultimately use the term “standards” as a way to deny safer engineering for people who walk and bike.

On the 7th day of Safety Myths, my DOT gave to me… the Nearest Crosswalk!

Here we have a bit of history about how crosswalks developed as a way of controlling pedestrians and keeping them off the roads.

The prevailing laws on crosswalk use in the United States emerged in the 1920s and 1930s as motordom began its vicious public relations campaign to clear the way for automobiles to dominate the streets. They created campaigns using term “jaywalking” (a “jay” being a hick or a rube who didn’t know how to cross streets among an abundance of cars) and related laws as a way to publicly shame pedestrians for not crossing the streets the way they had done for centuries.

Kostelec isn't done yet, but I will end with

On the 9th day of Safety Myths, my DOT gave to me… 94 percent!


94 percentKostelec Planning/via

This is based on the statement by the National Safety Council that “about 94 percent of serious crashes are due in part to frequent and predictable driver errors.” It is often used as a justification for self-driving cars. You hear it a lot, but Kostelec says "IT'S BUNK!" It doesn't take into account the underlying engineering issues.

There are three more days to come, so check them all out after Christmas at Kostelec Planning. I am hoping he will tackle my favourite myth:

distracted walking poster© University of Regina School of Nursing

On the 1st day of safety myths, my DOT gave to me....
Planner Don Kostelec explains everything about how screwed transportation safety is.

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