The unknown pedestrian

Two stories in the Gainesville sun. One of them prominent front page news. One an inside brief and quite easy missed.

Front page first:

We’ve all been wondering whether, or rather when, Alachua County will record its first coronavirus related death. “COVID-19, no deaths in county,” announced the April 15 headline.

That seems a minor miracle because we are a university city and many of our students and faculty had traveled the world before it became apparent that the world had a little virus problem.

Now the inside brief:

Just five paragraphs. “Pedestrian killed in crash on Waldo Road.”

Really, it’s hardly news at all. In fact, it happens so often around here that each “incident’ rarely rates much more than 100 words of reportage.

This time it was the early morning death of an unidentified (they almost always are at first) pedestrian run down by a logging truck. The brief report noted that the truck driver didn’t stop and, when detained, he “told police he was unaware the truck had been involved in the crash.”

Arguably the truck hadn’t been involved. Strictly speaking the “involved’ parties were the live driver and the dead walker.

Still no COVID-19 deaths in Alachua County. One of those would have been real news.

But as I noted in a column I wrote in March, at least six people have been run down in the roads and streets of Alachua County in the space of just a few months. Possibly more as such “incidents” barely rate as news.

But wait a minute: Hardly anyone’s driving in this time of coronavirus. Shouldn’t a pedestrian’s death now be unusual enough to merit attention, if only as a sort of dog-bites-man story?

Not really. It turns out that while fewer people drive now, some of those who are tend to do so faster and more recklessly. This due to the sheer novelty of experiencing congestion-free highways.

Everybody hates congestion, but it turns out to be a quite effective traffic-calming device.

Ironically, in some places, most notably New York City, motorists seem to be killing more of each other than pedestrians. “If there is any good news to the speed epidemic it’s that the carnage is mostly limited to operators of motorized vehicles such as cars and motorcycles,” notes Streetsblog NYC. “Between March 2 and April 8, two pedestrians have been killed by motorists, likely a result of so few pedestrians being outside during the virus lockdown.”

Turns out fewer people are walking just as fewer are driving. In that bizarre respect the coronavirus is actually something of a life-saver.

If past is prologue, we may not read anything else in The Sun about the unidentified pedestrian killed on Waldo Road. Eventually the police will release the victim’s name, but whether that makes the “news” is anybody’s guess.

Really, in this country, in our autoAmerica, we ought to have something like the Tomb Of The Unknown Pedestrian to commemorate the thousands of little known and little noted victims who are sacrificed in our streets year after year after year.

By now they must surely outnumber the sum total unknown soldiers who are honored by the much viewed tomb in Arlington Va.

Now something like that would surely merit front-page attention, even in the United States of autoAmerica.

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