City Streets and Signs of Improvement

Remember those “safety” signs the city recently unfurled, Slow Down For Us? It appears the city has released a new phase in this program, Please Stop For Us (I can’t find any reference of this initiative on the city’s site):

066All the same critiques apply to this sign as applied to Slow Down For Us. This isn’t really a safety plan; it’s a tacit admission that the city has built ridiculously unsafe infrastructure for our city (this sign was spotted just off Fifth Avenue near Bank Street). Streets with residences, children at play, (relatively) high pedestrian and bike modal shares, and a good deal of density aren’t actually safe for those who are using the streets on a regular basis.

It’s gross that our city leaders eschew actualy safety in favour of these awareness campaigns while continuing to build a thoroughly unsafe city.

Nonetheless, I kind of like this program.

You see, just as Slow Down For Us is a tacit admission of failure, Please Stop For Us, is tacit recognition that cars don’t actually the rule the road, and drivers have an obligation not to kill people. When people are driving on our city’s streets, they should stop for other people who are using the street.

To get a better sense of this, it is important to realize the purpose of city streets. Streets are not meant primarily for facilitating transportation; streets are meant to facilitate city life. Especially in dense urban areas, the purpose of the street is to engage the resident. For shopping. For socializing. For recreation. For entertainment. For exercise.

It is more important for the life of the city that people be engaged in the life of our streets rather than speeding through them, 20 – 30 km/h over the speed limit. This is why we need road diets, wider sidewalks, raised crosswalks, bike lanes, reduced speed limits and a host of other city-engaging initiatives.

This is why drivers need to stop for us.

One thought on “City Streets and Signs of Improvement

  1. As usual I enjoy reading your blogs and I agree more or less entirely. The thing is it does not make any difference – it did not change urban policy into the direction you and I would prefer it to go (and probably a majority of people if they had seen the result): human, excessible, place of social interaction, etc.

    During the past 20 years we work (build) around the car traffic to get the bicycle (pedestrian -) traffic safer and more widespread. It does not work. Even worse: where car and bicycle infrastructure meet it is extremly dangerous and unsafe – the same is true on pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. NCC’s multiusage recreational paths are an example here. And I see it even worse in Berlin where I currently live where the nobel idea to provide a bicycle infrastructure led to a horror system. Even in Kopenhagen, the mecca of bicycle traffic, I have not seen one child riding on its, admitetly, big bicycle infrastructure.

    I think there is only an either-or approach to traffic in a city. Building around car traffic is just an excuse for continuing the status-quo and providing a few bread crumbs to you and me. I admit I have no idea to get to a carless city.

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