A month or so ago, there was a car accident at the busy corner near my house. A drunk driver was turning right and pulled out too far, into the far lane, and hit a car that was traveling the opposite way. The lady in the car that was hit left on a backboard in an ambulance, and the drunk driver was unharmed. This intersection is near the Clintonville Community Market, which is a very busy area with lots of pedestrian traffic. There are also a lot of very young children living in the area. Yet for whatever reason, there is no stop sign for vehicles traveling down Calumet at this corner - and cars tend to fly down Calumet.
After the accident was picked up, I was chatting with my neighbor, who is pretty active in our neighborhood association.
He was saying that there was a petition at one point to get a stop sign put in at that corner, making it a four-way stop, but that the city refused to do it because of some sort of automobile-centric traffic plan that the city engineers insisted upon.
And that leads me to this point: what is more important, traffic or people's safety? There are over 40,000 automobile-related deaths each year, a figure that continues to climb as cars get more and more prevalent. Yet we keep being told that more roads are the way to fix this problem - to reduce the congestion and speed people on their way.
Paul Dorn of The Bike Commute Tips Blog once posted that he thought (and I paraphrase) building more roads to control traffic is akin to building more cemeteries to control the plague. I agree with this remark. It always seems that traffic planners' only suggestion is to create more roads for cars, thinking that this won't lead to more cars being on the road.
I tend to think differently: if we want to control congestion in our cities, then the thing to do is to make driving LESS attractive as an option for transportation. Traffic planning should be considered with the following hierarchy:
- Pedestrians - those with no vehicle.
- Cyclists - those with non-powered vehicles.
- Mass transit - those powered vehicles that transport many people.
- Motorcycles and scooters - small powered vehicles.
- Automobiles - large powered vehicles.
This accomplishes many things (some of which the Bike Nazi addressed in his top ten reasons to commute by bike), including:
- Traffic congestion is reduced.
- Less pollution is pumped into the air.
- Less oil is used for transportation.
- Frustration and bad feeling on the road is decreased... thus leading to -
- Fewer accidents.
- Less city resources dedicated to roads and traffic, and therefore better used for things like schools, public works, etc.