It is dangerous out there after all



It is dangerous out there after all

Last week’s news that the Transportation for America’s report Dangerous by Design indicated that the Providence-Fall River-New Bedford region has spent the most federal dollars by percentage on pedestrian facilities ($4.01 per capita between 2005-2008) seems to also indicate that RI has the highest incidence of pedestrian fatalities in New England and is fourth in the country (only Hawaii, NY and NJ were higher).

From today’s Projo article:

Janis Loiselle, the administrator of the state Office of Highway Safety, said she couldn’t explain the high fatality rates in Rhode Island compared with other states. …

She said her agency is trying to reduce the number of fatalities among the elderly by teaching them, for example, how to cross a street safely. One helpful technique, she said, is making eye contact with an approaching driver. She also said she’s planning to try to make elderly persons more visible by distributing small orange flags for them to carry.

While I am all for eye contact and using crosswalks, I think it is sad that we put the emphasis on the pedestrian being more visible.  The reality is that pedestrian infrastructure is an afterthought in most federally funded infrastructure projects and is the first casualty of “value engineering”.  Suggesting that our elderly men and women carry orange flags as they wait for the broken crosswalk signal to change only piles on the erosion of dignity we allow ourselves as upright walking humans.

As cyclists, we should be vigilant of this and align ourselves with efforts at spending public money for real pedestrian measures – urban design that forces vehicle to reduce speeds.  It is also in our collective interests to  push for better enforcement of traffic laws and stiffer penalties for negligent driving that result in death or injury.


  • Nov 23, 2009 at 6:45 am

    I'm still struggling with getting my head around this report. If the numbers are correct and this area spends the most federal dollars by percentage on pedestrian facilities, there are a limited number of conclusions that can be drawn:

    1) The money is being mis-managed and project focus is not correct. A few things the report doesn't list is what types of projects the money was used for, what percentage went to actual infrastructure (perhaps we just have a much higher administrative cost), etc.

    2) This area relies much more heavily on federal dollars than other places. It could be that other, safer areas, actually spend more money per person on pedestrian projects, yet we come out on top because a higher percentage of federal dollars were spent.

    3) This area is merely making up for complete lack of money spent in previous years and, even though they are spending near the top now, they are behind the average when it comes to pedestrian infrastructure and have a gap to make up.

    4) For some unknown reason, it is just that much more expensive to build out pedestrian infrastructure in this area.

    For certain, I hope the attention from the Projo will call out for some politicians to answer why there is such a discrepancy.

  • Nov 24, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    Don't hold your breath.

    Facts I read pinpoint pedestrian fatalities as "most likely" in parking lots with no walking infrastructure. They squeeze in cars at the expense of pedestrians. Over 90% of fatalities occur where they don't accommodate walkers.

  • Nov 27, 2009 at 8:29 am

    We did my traditional Impossible Ride on Thanksgiving morning. It went by the construction between the airport and new train station. There's a pedestrian overpass, which is fine, but there's apparently no bicycling connection. I'd be surprised to see bike racks; don't expect any, since there's practically no way to ride to station on area roads, which violates federal and state laws.

    This website seems nothing more than a way for automobile lobbyists and city/state officials to relish the inconvenience and pain they cause bicyclists, even dream up new ways to marginalize and torture us further. They've convinced cyclists to abhor Critical Mass Rallies. Most cyclists here are also motorists who have to deal with poorly planned and worrisome roads. They therefore can't comprehend how a correctly designed, seamless, statewide bikenet would alleviate traffic, and that the only way to get there is to show your displeasure by rallying en mass. If you never ride downtown, they'll never accommodate you, so they win, and cyclists are forced to drive across this traffic nexus to go anywhere else in state instead of ride there.

    Decent urban planning is a right which includes ample sidewalks, bike lanes, crosswalks, free peripheral parking, full compliment of services downtown (cafes, markets, stores), police presence, subway/trolley connections, and uncluttered downtown traffic patterns not due to fear of tickets or tragedy.

    But even ample free parking and easy access did nothing to bring out the area's lackluster bicycling community (except Barry) to a free, much appreciated, well publicized show with film, songs and videos dedicated to cycling culture. They don't deserve advocacy for transportation improvements or angst over shrinking shoulders.