Speed kills. And big streets are the killing grounds

Urban planning advocacy group says cars prioritized over people

Thomas Perumean
September 19, 2019 - 5:44 am

Getty Images - Aktham El Halabi


The numbers of people dying in automobile accidents is going down.  However, the numbers of people dying from being hit by a car are on the rise.  And the bad news is Louisiana is the fourth most deadly state for car-pedestrian deaths.  

"We have prioritized speed above all else.  We have made it the number one consideration when building streets," says Steven Davis with urban planning advocacy group Smart Growth America.  

Davis says before the 1950s cities were built on a human scale, where people walked to most of their destinations.  But as times changed the car became the preferred mode of transportation.  With the growth of suburbs urban planning became focused on moving traffic and not people.  To do that, streets became wide boulevards with speed as the priority and that's when deaths of pedestrians started to climb:

"It's not on narrow streets in the Quarter.  It's not in old neighborhoods with wide sidewalks and trees next to the streets," Davis says. "It's along Claiborne, it's on Jefferson Highway west of town.  It's wide arterial roads where pedestrians are, if anything, an after thought."

Smart Growth America also points to the changing tastes of our car-culture as a major part of the problem:  "The fleet used to be mostly made up of sedans and smaller cars. And that shifted a few years ago to SUV's becoming a larger share of the market than sedans."  Davis continues, "Look at the size of the front end of these vehicles, they are increasingly likely to kill you if you get hit.  

Smart Growth America is looking to move city planners away from moving traffic to making city streets safer for people and cars to co-exist.  "Namely keeping everybody safe, especially the most vulnerable people who use out streets--which are anyone not inside two-tons of glass and steel."  

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