Back when I was a young editorial writer, I produced a regular feature called “Gunshine State.” Just a periodic roundup of the latest incidents of, um, gunplay in our Blued Steel State. Somehow I never ran out of material.
But I have lately come to believe that the truest form of American anarchy plays itself out every day on streets and highways that we purposely design to facilitate fast and careless driving – at the expense of thousands of human lives each year.
So I’ve decided to revert to my early editorial writing form, sort of. Here’s “autoAmerican Anarchy: Edition 1.”
- Phoenix, Az., may be autoAmerica’s deadliest city, with 92 pedestrian fatalities in 2017 alone. Nonetheless the city council there recently rejected a modest “Vision Zero” proposal aimed at saving a few lives. “Proponents of this insane scheme want to … make driving as difficult as possible and slowly force people out of their cars” by “slowing traffic to a crawl.” This from councilman Sal DiCiccio, who led the charge to preserve fast driving. He went on to blame potholes for much of the carnage on Phoenix streets. On the plus side, “Potholes Kill” would certainly make a great bumper sticker.
- In Houston a deputy who was working the scene of a fatal traffic accident was injured by a driver who was subsequently charged with DUI. Then a second deputy working the same scene was hit and injured…by the inebriated twin brother of the guy who injured the first deputy.
- In Melbourne, Fl., a 100-year old man was driving his handicapped-equipped van when he spotted a family of sandhill cranes crossing the road. Swerving to avoid them, the man was killed when he collided with another car. “In my 25 years, I’ve heard of people stopping for turtles or cows, but I’ve never seen this, a fatality involving sandhill cranes,” said Lt. Kim Montes, a spokeswoman for the Florida Highway Patrol, told USA Today.
- And just down the road, in Broward County, a man standing in the median of a busy intersection was reportedly hit by no fewer than three cars. He died and all three drivers fled the scene of the….oops, I almost called it an “accident.”
- Dave Salovesh, 54, a longtime bicycle commuter and traffic safety advocate in Washington, D.C. , was struck and killed by the driver of a stolen van. I never knew him as anything but a bicycle advocate,” said Rudi Riet, a member of Salovesh’s bicycling coffee club. “He lived and breathed making the streets safe.”
- An angry young man in Sunnyvale, Ca., plowed his car into a group of pedestrians, injuring eight people. Police later said the act was intentional because the suspect thought some of the pedestrians looked like Muslims.
- In Portland, Or., an impatient driver decided to use a right hand bike lane to get around the stopped car in front of him. In the process he hit a six year old girl in the crosswalk. “Before crossing, the child’s mother had activated the lights for the marked crosswalk, which is what caused the other cars to stop,” reports Willamette Week, “…the mother was not hit, and the vehicle fled the scene without stopping.”
- Abdul Seck, 31, was walking to a store in Washington, D.C. when he was struck and killed by a vehicle that had been rammed by a driver who had just run two stop signs. Friends and neighbors began a fundraising effort to send Seck’s body back to Senegal, the land of his birth, for burial. Seck’s friend, Ebony Munnerlyn, told WTOP “He had great things that he wanted to do for himself and now his family has to bury their son, which is something that a parent should never have to do.”
- Galina Alterman became the 12th person to die in vehicle crashes in San Francisco this year when she was struck in crosswalk by a truck whose driver told police he hadn’t seen her. “I’m shedding a lot of tears for all the needless deaths we’re experiencing,” said Jodie Medeiros, executive director of Walk SF, a pedestrian safety group, told the San Francisco Chronicle. She added “You just have to wonder how does a human not see another human in a crosswalk
- The snow is melting in Minnesota, which means that prime cyclist and pedestrian hunting season is about to begin. Seven cyclists were killed in Minneapolis last year alone. Now that spring is here, John Elder, spokesman for the city’s police department, told the Star Tribune: “We have to be situationally aware and protect ourselves and each other. It’s unfortunate that drivers get angry at bikes. We have to share the road.”
- In Salem, Org., local cycling activist David Fox took it on himself to post two official looking signs proclaiming that cyclists legally “may use full lane.” But he took them down after learning that the city would do so if he didn’t. “I think people misinterpret the law, if they even know what the law is,” Fox told the Statesman Journal. “It’s not just drivers, it’s cyclists, too. I think the majority of cyclists believe they’re supposed to ride next to all the parked cars, which is really dangerous.”
- Cycling activists in several other cities, have begun to line up red Solo cups, fastened with tape on their bottoms, along the painted lines that separate bike lanes from traffic lanes. This to get the attention of motorists and to make the case for some sort of physical barrier between cyclists and cars. Cyclists Sam Balto told Bike Portland “I want these cups to become planters, cement bollards — things that actually prevent people form swerving into bike lanes and force drivers to pay more attention.”
Be careful out there….it’s a jungle.