Are Safer Streets A Political Choice?



How do we lower our crash rate for cars, pedestrians and bike riders?

Or maybe more importantly, does our town have the political will to do so?

We tend to think of our street system as if it’s chiseled in stone, handed down from outer space, as if it is a force of nature. This is not true. The configuration of our streets is a political act, local, county, state and federal. It will take a political act to have safer and healthier streets.

Our town is famous for being walkable. Our town is also now infamous for its fatality and injury rate. On average there are two auto vs. pedestrian crashes each month going back decades and at least one fatality per year. So far this year our town has three fatalities. One response is to wonder why anyone would want to ride a bike or cross the street on foot. Other people are praying that our council will take responsibility for our high mortality rate and with three votes, fix it.

You’re asking is it possible to lower our crash rate? Yes, it is possible and here’s how. Ask this question of Google:  “Are some walkable cities safer for pedestrians and bike rides?”  Results: about 1,380,000 references. On a national level there are 100s of county, state and federal agencies dealing with improving the health and safety of roadways. Nationally there are 100s of non-profits working on this topic. Every one of these originations study and advocate using data-based best practices.

The way to fix a problem is to study the data on how other cities fixed their similar problems. This is called studying data-driven best practices. Nationally there is a movement that started in the 1970s. For most of us the terms sound like jargon: complete streets, traffic calming, livable cities, living streets, walkable streets, walkable cities and healthy cities.

And yes, building safer healthier streets will cost money.

Michael Hoag, Laguna Beach

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