Design is destiny

Not all roads must lead to ruin.

South Main Street funnels traffic into downtown Gainesville. It traverses mom-and-pop businesses, an industrial district and Depot Park. Big trucks, cars, buses, walkers and cyclists all use South Main in more or less peaceful coexistence.

Archer Road also brings traffic into the heart of the city. On the way it runs right through Gainesville’s “medical mile,” past the VA Hospital and UF Health’s tightly packed hospitals, clinics and labs.

Archer is also traffic-,transit- and pedestrian-intensive. And some of its pedestrians must get around with the help of canes and wheelchairs.

Slowing traffic where there are lots of sick and elderly people – and thousands of health care workers – would seem to be good public safety policy. I assumed that was the reason 25 mph speed limit signs were once posted on Archer between SW 23rd St. and SW 13th St.

Because we know that speed kills.

But it turns out that the 25 mph limit was just a temporary inconvenience for drivers while road construction was underway. Last month, the limit was raised to 35 mph.

Not that posted limits count for very much. Archer was designed for speed. Multiple, broad travel lanes, no on-street bike lanes or parking, no roundabouts and good straight lines of sight all conspire to empower fast drivers.

The speed limit on South Main is 30 mph. But unlike Archer, South Main was deliberately designed to move traffic at a slow, steady pace. A single, narrow travel lane, on-street bike lanes and parking, roundabouts, landscaped median and other “traffic calming” designs induce motorists to behave themselves.

South Main used to look a lot like Archer, and it similarly invited rural highway speeds.

True confession: I got my last ticket on the old South Main speedway. In retrospect, I should have pleaded entrapment by design.

If you haven’t been paying attention, South Main is beginning to blossom. Depot Park and the Cade are people magnets, and new businesses are beginning to spring up in a corridor once known more for urban blight than vitality.

In contrast, Archer’s medical mile continues to be traffic-centric. Moving cars as quickly and efficiently as possible is goal No. 1, with public safety a distant second.

Why UF isn’t demanding that the state turn that stretch of Archer into a South Main clone is baffling to me. If though traffic was diverted around the medical complex and onto SW 16th Avenue, only people who had health business to attend to would need to drive through medical mile.

The old South Main speedway is newly redesigned by the City of Gainesville to improve the urban quality of life. It is reviving a once moribund part of the city without disrupting, only slowing, traffic.

Archer was designed by the state to do exactly what it does. Move a lot of cars very quickly.

But here’s the thing. All over America, cities are waking up to the necessity of obliging cars to behave themselves in order to make the public streets safer and accessible to people who do not seal themselves up inside protective metal cocoons.

In any sane society the safety of people who get around with the help of wheelchairs and walkers would take precedence over the convenience of fast driving.

But that’s the story of autoAmerica.

We can be better than that in Gainesville. We can choose to design our own destiny. Not all of our roads must lead to ruin.

Ron Cunningham is former editorial page editor of The Sun. Read his blog at http://www.floridavelocipede.com.

autoAmerican anarchy

Here we go again.

Two adolescents, a boy and a girl, were throwing snowballs at cars in Milwaukee. One driver took umbridge, pulled over, and shot them. Would an autoAmerican jury even convict?

Meanwhile, in Kansas City, an off-duty police officer, a the mother of two, pulled her car over to help an elderly woman cross the street. As a reward for her good deed she was struck and killed by an oncoming vehicle.

Turns out, Halloween is a truly scary night. “The most disturbing thing about Halloween isn’t the fake blood, urban legends, or sexy clown costumes. It’s that the streets are full of actual child-killers: Pedestrians under age 18 are twice as likely to be struck and killed by a car on October 31 than on any other day of the year,” reports City Lab. Be very afraid, kids.

It is a perverse autoAmerican value that the act of walking is actually hazardous to your health. “Ten years ago, 4,109 pedestrians died. The number has risen virtually every year since, and last year, the death toll was up 3.4 percent to 6,283. Pedestrian fatalities in urban areas are up 69 percent over the last 10 years,” Reports McClatchy news service. On the other hand, don’t you feel really safe inside that big, tall, armored SUV?

From our Best Intentions Dept: San Francisco adopted “Vision Zero” goals to eliminate traffic deaths. But the city has since declared a “state of emergency” because the death toll is actually climbing. “San Francisco is midway through its Vision Zero goal to eliminate street fatalities, which don’t count highways or underground transportation, by 2024 but faced a setback…this year has seen at least 24 people die in street collisions and 16 of those have been pedestrians or cyclists. In all of 2018, there were 23 deaths counting against Vision Zero,” reports SFWeekly.

And if you think technology is going to keep us from killing each other, think again. It turns out that the reason an Arizona woman was killed by an Uber self-driving SUV last year was because the car apparently didn’t know that human beings don’t always heed the rules of the road. “Much of that explains why, despite the fact that the car detected (Rafaela) Herzberg with more than enough time to stop, it was traveling at 43.5 mph when it struck her and threw her 75 feet. When the car first detected her presence, 5.6 seconds before impact, it classified her as a vehicle. Then it changed its mind to “other,” then to vehicle again, back to “other,” then to bicycle, then to “other” again, and finally back to bicycle,” reports Wired. Back to the drawing board on that one.

After a 37-year old cyclist was run over by a truck in Chicago, cyclists turned out in protest bearing “Please don’t kill us” signs. But don’t just blame the driver. ““You had a bike lane that is completely gone, it hasn’t been maintained. The plan was to make it a protected bike lane but the area pushed back, so it was just a faded, painted bike lane,” Christina Whitehouse, founder of advocacy group Bike Lane Uprising, told Block Club Chicago. “We had a cyclist that was in it and who was clearly an experienced cyclist based on the bike, and you had a commercial truck that right-hooked her.” The moral to this story is that life is cheap – or at least cheaper than the cost of laying down a little paint or installing barriers.

The city of Elizabeth, N.J. decided to ban Lime electric scooters after a teenager rented one and was killed. By a tow truck. ““It didn’t matter if he was 16 or 18. He was hit by a tow truck. No matter how old he was, he would have been killed,” Elizabeth resident Danielle Fienberg told StreetsblogNYC. “We have no bike lanes, we have no basic pedestrian safety measures, and we have drivers that are aggressive. We were not ready for Lime scooters.” No word on whether Elizabeth now intends to ban killer tow trucks.

They are serious about jaywalking in Gwinnette County, Ga. A man on his way to a job interview reportedly got tased three times for walking outside the line. “You jaywalked again right in front of us. Again, bro,” the officer said, according to a WSBTV news report. “Y’all doing all that over jaywalking?” the tasee responded. Hey, this is autoAmerica, pal, you need to watch your step!

Professional wrestler Matt Travis was a tough guy. “Wrestling is my lifeline. Every night I come home and hear how someone got shot… like, what if I’m next? But with wrestling I feel like, finally, I have a shot,” he once said. “It didn’t take a bullet to kill Matt Travis. It took a 10,000-pound dump truck,” reports StreetsblogNYT. “According to police, Travis was coasting down the Willis Avenue bridge bike path at around 2:30 a.m. on Saturday, intending to continue across 125th Street — but a dump truck on a service road parallel to the bridge made an illegal left turn onto 125th Street and then another left onto the bridge, hitting Travis in the process.”

And, listen, you don’t have to be a pedestrian or cyclist to be at risk in autoAmerica. In Toms River, N.J. a red Porsche was traveling so fast that it actually went airborne and lodged itself into the second story of a real estate building, killing both driver and passenger. “The red Porsche Boxster was clearly visible upside down in the second story,’ reported USA Today. “Toms River building inspector John Gerrity deemed the building unsafe, police said.” And the building wasn’t even jaywalking.

Meanwhile, the Houston Chronicle reports that “Texas has not had a death-free day on its roads in 19 years.” Texas Transportation Commissioner Laura Ryan said “They die silently and violently,’…noting the numbness many drivers have to Texas leading the country in fatalities.” On the plus side, you get to drive really, really fast in Texas.

By the way, if you think driving doesn’t go to your head, think again. “New research has linked air pollution nanoparticles to brain cancer for the first time. The ultra-fine particles (UFPs) are produced by fuel burning, particularly in diesel vehicles, and higher exposures significantly increase people’s chances of getting the deadly cancer,” reports The Guardian. “Toxic air has been linked to other effects on the brain, including hugereductions in intelligence, dementia and mental health problems in both adults and children. The World Health Organization says air pollution is a “silent public health emergency.” Talk about distracted driving.

But don’t get the impression that all drivers are oblivious to the world around them. When St. Petersburg cyclist Steven Weldon got nailed by a speeding motorist, he got assistance from an unexpected source. “The unidentified driver stopped and helped pull an injured Weldon off the roadway. He also moved the bike out of the road,” reported the Tampa Bay Times. Then “the driver got back into his car and drove off. Now it’s being investigated a case of hit-and-run.”

Be careful out there folks.

Walking on rainbows

Now we’re walking on rainbows in downtown Gainesville. How cool is that?

Listen, Gainesville is no stranger to public art. We’ve got the French Fries From Hell and that evil Jay Leno lookalike moon with the glowing eyes.

And we’re busting out all over in wall murals. Tom Petty, dragons and apes, Me Too and true romance…our walls have a thousand stories to tell.

But, really, why stop there when we’ve got perfectly good public streets for canvas?

Gainesville launched its Art In The Crosswalks initiative last month with three rainbow crosswalks on 1st Street – next to city hall, at Bo Diddley Plaza and in front of the Hipp. The rainbows celebrate National Coming Out day. And what a colorful way to display our collective pride in being a welcoming city.

And those rainbows will do double duty. For art’s sake, and for safety’s sake.

Anything we can do to get cars to slow down and pay attention is to the public good. And the rainbows are certainly attention-getters.

We’re not alone in that regard. All over the country, and around the world, cities are laying down imaginative street designs to celebrate their creativity – and to get cars to slow down. Crosswalks are being dressed up as zippers, keyboards, kaleidoscopes, optical illusions and, yes, rainbows.

“Bright colors and unique designs in crosswalks can create a sense of community while keeping pedestrians safer and drawing drivers’ attention to them” argues the online news service Smart Cities Drive. “Brightly colored crosswalks are popping up in a variety of designs from geometric patterns to symbols that represent a city’s history and culture…”

Hey, who doesn’t love creative crosswalks?

Well, the Federal Highway Administration for one. Seems the traffic “professionals” have been trying to get cities to desist from being artsy at street level. FHA prefers the standard, white, by-the-book crosswalks that have been so successful in protecting pedestrians.

Of which 6,227 were killed last year alone. And that number keeps rising.

According to the feds “crosswalk art is actually contrary to the goal of increased safety and most likely could be a contributing factor to a false sense of security for both motorists and pedestrians” reports the New York Times.

To which objections some cities are responding with a polite but firm “bunk.”

“With the system of federalism in the United States, the federal government does not have jurisdiction over everything,” states a written response Ames City, Iowa, which has decided to keep its rainbows despite a “sharply worded” federal request to remove them.

My personal favorite rebuke comes from Doug Turnbull, aka the “Gridlock Guy” an Atlanta traffic watcher. “A pencil-pushing bureaucrat a thousand miles away shouldn’t affect policy of this kind on this level,” he wrote recently in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Rainbow crosswalks are a good thing…forbidding them for being unsafe is laughable — and probably makes people want to jaywalk even more.”

So here’s to walking on rainbows in Gainesville. And perhaps that’s only the beginning.

Assistant City Manager Dan Hoffman says to look for one or two additional creative crosswalk projects in the near term. And more later on if the city commission decides to keep funding Art In Crosswalks.

“One of the reasons we have to look at these kind of solutions is because the federal government has for years failed” to protect the walking public, Hoffman said.

So how about something really creative – and eye opening – at University and Main? Or University and 13th?

All the better to see us by.

Ron Cunningham is former editorial page editor of The Sun.

The price we pay

It’s almost as though our cars are out to kill us.

Not to be paranoid or anything.

But it is a fact that while fewer people who encase themselves inside rolling steel cocoons are getting killed on the road, more people who do not enjoy such armored protection are perishing.

Which raises a public safety question.

Shouldn’t there at the very least be a bag limit on cyclists and pedestrians?

Why this is happening? There are clues.

Perhaps it’s because we lust for ever bigger, ever faster, ever more deadly cars.

But let’s not jump to conclusions.

And the irony is that every time we try to slow cars down in the interest of saving the the lives of cyclists, pedestrians, children and other living things, the backlash ramps up: We are waging a “war on cars.”

Pity the hapless victims of traffic calming. For they must periodically slow and even stop.

Lest they suffer the wrath of Big Brother. The Deep State.

Crosswalk art is beginning to be a thing. To liven the urban environment and hopefully to catch the eye of distracted, heavy footed drivers.

But traffic engineers say crosswalk art has the “potential to compromise pedestrian and motorist safety.” Too confusing.

Nothing confusing about this though.

But there is no confusion here. The cause and effect is crystal clear.

As a society we have decided that 36,560 deaths a year are simply the price we willing to pay to preserve our freedom of the road.

It is the price we pay for autoAmerican anarchy.

 

 

 

 

autoAmerican Anarchy

Time for another autoAmerican Anarchy update. So much carnage, so little time.

• Credit alert drivers for ripping the lid off the most insidious conspiracy since the Trilateral Commission schemed to take over the world. Opposing Complete Streets policies in auto-centric Alexandria, Va, motorists Jack Sullivan noted “There is a fanatic minority who want to get people out of cars, lower the speed limits and reduce the size of roads. They are being heard in the towers of power.” For the record, what “they” want folks in the power towers to hear is this: Please stop killing us with your cars.

• Not to worry, though, the Complete Streets conspiracists are losing in dribs and drabs. In Providence, R.I, newly installed bike lanes were removed after drivers complained about them. “Making our City streets safe and accessible to all is one of my top priorities,” said Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan. However, “We need to balance all new initiatives with the needs of the surrounding community, particularly when it is a matter of public safety.” Translation: Saving cyclists is fine, but not if it means drivers must slow down.

• Which is not to say that motorists can get away with anything in autoAmerica. A guy who drove his car through a suburban Chicago shopping mall has been charged with terrorism. “Chaos ensued among the patrons of the mall. Hysterical patrons were running and jumping in attempts to evade the vehicle’s path. Stores were locking their gates and sheltering people in the rear of stores for safety purposes,” prosecutor Annalee McGlone said. Turns out the freedom to shop is almost as sacrosanct as the freedom to drive.

• Nobody’s been charged with auto-terrorism in Denver, however, despite the fact that more than 20 pedestrians have been killed or injured by hit-and-run- drivers so far this year. The carnage, Reports Westworld adds “another layer to concerns about the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and scooter riders on metro streets amid rising traffic volume and other infrastructure stressors.”

• Also in Denver, Gazette columnist Mike Rosen duly expressed his condolences over the death of a woman cyclist who was killed by a dump truck. Then he blew the whistle on the local bicycle community’s “aggressive agenda,” writing that “Bicycles have their place but unless cyclists have a death-wish they should realize commuting to work on a bicycle in heavy rush hour traffic isn’t wise…And finding that the driver was at fault is little consolation.” Translation: She pretty much got what she deserved.

• But let’s not, um, dump on Rosen. Streetsblog USA has compiled an impressive list of media mavens who routinely go out of their way to excuse the deadly behavior of drivers. “Yes, local newspapers are still force-feeding us the myth of the American open road.”

• In Sacramento, motorist Nicholas Soller was arrested after he illegally parked in a bike lane….and then beat up a cyclists who complained about it. “Police say Soller tailed the cyclist in a high-traffic area and crashed into him before getting out of his car to continue a physical assault,” reports CBS Sacramento. Temper Nick.

• Elsewhere on the Road Rage Front, a 13-year old boy in Greenville, S.C. was severely injured after being hit by a car while walking his sister to the bus stop. The offending motorists reportedly lost control of his vehicle while engaged in aggressive driving match with another vehicle. “If you start to feel your temper flare, and you start to get mad, the best advise that we can give is pull off on the side of the road, take a deep breath, calm down, and then get back in the road to drive,” Greenville PD. Lt. Alan Johnson said. “If you don’t and you get into a rage situation, something like this can happen, or worse, you can kill somebody.”

• Driving has been banned on Michigan’s Mackinac Island for half a century. But that didn’t stop Vice President Mike Pence from barreling across the island in an 8-car motorcade recently to deliver a speech. “Plenty of actual presidents have visited sans cars,” Julia Pulver tweeted. “It’s literally an island, you can very easily control who’s there for this event. No excuses. This didn’t have to happen, but it did, because they could.” Executive privilege don’t you know.

• While auto-related fatalities overall are decreasing, cycling deaths have increased by 25 percent since 2010. “The major causes of cyclist deaths are motor vehicle crashes, and hit-and-runs and driver inattentiveness are unfortunately the most common factors,” reports vice.com. One way “to deter bicyclist fatalities is to start holding drivers responsible when they cause the accident, especially in cases of a hit-and-run.” Yeah, like that’s gonna happen in autoAmerica.

• Speaking of breaking records, deaths from red-light running has reached a 10-year high, according to the American Automobile Association. “This is at least two people killed every day at the hands of drivers blowing through red lights,” Jake Nelson, director of traffic safety advocacy and research for AAA, told USA Today. This hasn’t stopped Texas and at least 14 other states from banning cameras that can catch red light runners in the act.

• In Michigan, three Amish siblings were killed and another critically injured when a motorists ran into their horse-drawn buggy. This following a eerily similar collision in June in which three other Amish siblings died. “There have been other accidents this summer in which Amish buggy passengers were injured,” reports USA Today. “In July, six children were injured in a vehicle-buggy crash in Mecosta County, and in August, four members of a family were injured after a buggy-vehicle crash near Hillsdale.”

• In Orange, Tex., 19-year-old Harley Joe Morgan and 20-year-old Rhiannon Boudreaux Morgan got married, climbed into their car to start the honeymoon – and were promptly killed in a collision with a pickup truck. “Justice of the Peace Joy Dubose-Simonton, who performed the wedding, attended their bodies as coroner,” noted USA Today.

• And finally, for those who had hoped that technology would save us from ourselves, the Wall Street Journal reports that safety features in some new automobiles intended to protect pedestrians don’t really work all that well all the time. Especially a night. ““Pedestrian fatalities are really becoming a crisis,” Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of automotive engineering, told the Journal. The newspaper cautions “While such pedestrian-detection systems have the potential to save lives, drivers shouldn’t become overly reliant on them to prevent accidents…”

Marked for life

Pity poor Hester Prynne. Censored by her Puritan community for having a child out of wedlock she was forced to wear a scarlet A, so that all would know of her mortal sin wherever she went.

But really, sexual promiscuity is so passé in this day and age. Everybody does it, right?

No, the real promiscuous behavior – the nearest thing to original sin in autoAmerica – isn’t performed between the sheets, but rather on top of the asphalt.

The new promiscuity is committed every day by miscreants who refuse to insert themselves into two-ton steel cocoons, like normal people, before using the public streets.

Instead they insist on inserting themselves, sans cocoons, between the unobstructed road ahead and the God-given right of American motorists to drive as fast as they please wherever they please.

Slow down hell! Freedom of movement is an American birthright and not to be surrendered lightly.

Until some reckless pedestrian or renegade cyclist gets in the way. And then pity the poor motorist who has to live with that.

Thus the new scarlet letter. Interfere with the fast flow of traffic is you must. If you dare. But at least, for the love of Ford, brand yourself with neon red flags.

Or fluorescent yellow vests. Or something else reflective to warn innocent drivers that you intend to rudely interrupt their freedom of movement.

It is only in hunting that the predators wear bright orange and the game goes unadorned. But that’s just because they can’t figure out how to make a deer wear a vest.

But there is a war being waged against cars in autoAmerica. Everybody says so. At the very least the anti-auto insurgents should be made to identify themselves.

Really, there ought to be a law. We could call it the Yellow Flag Law. Branded for life.

And when will these people learn to just stay out of our way? Haven’t we drivers suffered enough?

Or maybe the prey aren’t the problem. Maybe it really is the hunters.

Perhaps it is because, as a mobile society, we stubbornly refuse to design our communities and public streets to protect life rather than facilitate speed.

Instead of this.

We could do this.

And we could reverse this deadly trend.

By slowing cars down. Because we know that speed kills.

And we know how to do it.

We simply lack the will to do it. No matter the consequences.

Hence the new scarlet letter. Something to scare or shame the miscreants so they might stay out of our way.

But be warned, autoAmerica. France’s yellow vest law set the stage for a revolution. It could happen here.

Viva la revolution.

Live free and die hard

The world will little note nor long lament the death of 33-year-old Drew Grant in a two car collision on a lonely highway in Arkansas Saturday night. Traffic fatalities are all too common in autoAmerica and typically merit little media attention.

Anyway, most of us were too focused – at least for the moment – on the latest mass shooting: Three dead, including a six-year-old boy, and 15 wounded at a Northern California garlic festival.

Indeed the only reason Grant’s passing (by the way, the driver of the other vehicle died too, and three passengers, including a child, were injured) is that before he had his name legally changed, Grant, aka Andrew Golden, had gained national infamy as the “baby faced” killer.

Along with 13-year old Mitchell Johnson, Golden, then 11, shot and killed four fellow students and a teacher in Westside Middle School, in Jonesboro, Ark, on March 24, 1998. At the time it was the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, though not for long. Tried as a juvenile, Golden spent 9 years in juvenile detention before being released.

Some might consider Grant’s death by automobile poetic justice. It is certainly one of the most ironic exits imaginable. Young Andrew Golden lived by the gun in a country where some 33,000 people a year are shot. Drew Grant died at the wheel in a nation that shrugs off in excess of 40,000 traffic fatalities annually.

“Since January 2000, more Americans have died in car crashes than did in both World Wars, and the overwhelming majority of the wrecks were caused by speeding, drunk or distracted drivers, according to government data,” reports the Washington Post. “Where’s the social outrage? There should be social outrage,” said Robert L. Sumwalt, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, told WaPo.

Every day, 100 Americans are killed with guns and hundreds more are shot and injured. The effects of gun violence extend far beyond these casualties—gun violence shapes the lives of millions of Americans who witness it, know someone who was shot, or live in fear of the next shooting.” This from the advocacy group Everytown For Gun Safety.

Indeed, death by gunfire and death by automobile are uniquely American ways to go. Statistically no other nation on earth can touch our fatality rates in either category.

Make no mistake, we Americans have it well within in our power to stop the slaughter on both counts. We could ban military-style assault weapons and “cop killer” ammunition. We could do more to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. We could impose sensible waiting periods and background checks. We could ban private “off the books” gun sales and more.

But we choose not to. Our politicians have long ago decided that a staggering body count is an acceptable trade off for our sacred right to pack heat. And they know that voters are far more likely to punish them than praise them for their pro-gun sentiments.

Likewise we have the technology to stop speeding and reckless driving. There is a reason why lawmakers are prone to ban cameras that ticket red light runners and speeders. Because they know that Americans get angry over mechanized “speed traps” and insist that they be ticketed only when cops actually see them misbehaving and chase them down for it.

Which is more sacred in America: The right to arm ourselves against government tyranny? Or the right to drive as fast and as much as we please?

And so 40,000 traffic deaths here, 30,000 gun deaths there. Call them acceptable losses necessary to preserve our freedom to drive and shoot. It is what the Founding Father’s fought and died for

What can be more central to the American identity than guns and cars? “Live free and die hard” might as well be our national motto.

autoAmerican anarchy

The cyclists are revolting against autoAmerican anarchy. Up the revolution!

In New York City hundreds of cyclists laid down for a “die-in” at Washington Square Park after three cyclists were killed in just one week (15 Big Apple cyclists dead so far this year). “People are literally dying on the streets because they’re not being adequately protected,” Joseph Cutrufo, of Transportation Alternatives, said. Biking “shouldn’t be seen as a dangerous behavior.”

In Boston cyclists formed a human chain to protest the city’s decision to install painted bike lanes on dangerous streets. According to the Boston Globe “The 8 a.m. demonstration consisted of more than 100 people standing in the roads near the intersection of Fenway and Brookline Avenue during the busy morning commute to ‘highlight the dangerous conditions cyclists face every day when given no protection beyond paint.'” Paint isn’t enough, protestors say, they want bike lanes that are physically separated from cars. 

These protests follow a well-attended “Rally For Streets That Don’t Kill People” in Washington, D.C. “Cyclists laid down in the street, and activists read aloud the names of 128 people who have been killed on D.C. roads since” 2016 reports USA Streetsblog. 

Meanwhile, an NYC cop intentionally ran his patrol car into a cyclists who had apparently ignored an order to pull over. The cop later told the cyclists in front of witnesses “you’re riding recklessly, and you’re refusing to stop after multiple lawful orders that you acknowledged. So I am going to use whatever means necessary to stop you, OK? And that’s for your safety.” On the plus side, at least he didn’t shoot the guy. 

In Florida’s Indian Rocks Beach 17-year old Sophia Delott was riding her bike home from school when she was struck and killed by a drunk driver. Delott was well known in the community as the only girl on the Seminole High football team. The team posted on its Facebook page: “Last night, one of our own was taken from us by a drunk driver. Sophie was a Warhawk through and through…Most of all, she was our family.”

The City of Orangetown, NY, has passed an ordinance requiring cyclists to ride in single file or suffer penalties of up to $300 in fines and 30 days in jail – this despite a state law that stipulates otherwise. “Apparently, upstate motorists were upset that cycling tourists wouldn’t move out of the way of cars,” reports Streetsblog USA. Oh the humanity.

Want to know why the simple act of walking on public streets is hazardous for your health? Consider these survey results from Chicago’s Active Transportation Alliance. Despite a “must stop” law requiring drivers to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, fewer than 1 out of 5 Chicago drivers do so. “Compliance is really, really low,” says Active Transportation Alliance spokesman Kyle Whitehead in a classic understatement. 

Speaking of pedestrians at risk, Strong Towns poses the $64,000 question with this recent headline “Why are U.S. drivers killing so many pedestrians?” U.S. pedestrian deaths have increased 51 percent over the last 9 years. Meanwhile the pedestrian death rate in Europe is steadily dropping. “It’s worth noting that this trend is occurring even though walking is far more common in Europe, streets are generally narrower, and in older cities, there aren’t sidewalks, but pedestrians share the roadway with cars.” Hey, if you don’t love autoAmerica, Pal, go back where you came from. 

On the plus side, police in five southeast states are cracking down on speeders – for exactly one week. “The speed limit is the speed limit,” Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Derrick Rahming said in announcing Operation Southern Shield. “We are going to be focusing on drivers who are failing to observe posted speed limits…to make sure the roads are safer during this season.” It’s rather like declaring a hunting season when you can bag your limit. The rest of the year we call ’em “speed traps.”

You have the right to park

Once more I must rise to the defense of our woefully misunderstood public servants in the Florida Legislature.

Of late lawmakers have been taking heat, and even threatened with legal action, over a bill – still awaiting Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signature at this writing – requiring a “sufficient” amount of parking be available at early voting sites. 

What’s wrong with that? Well you might ask. Listen, if we don’t take the phrase “motor voter” literally as well as seriously here in autoAmerica then where? What can possibly be more patriotic than our collective fidelity to liberty, equality and parking? 

But, no, cynics accuse legislators of harboring ill motives in their insistence on parking. This is just a sneaky ploy to avoid having to put early voting sites on college and university campuses. Because – gasp! – student voters are presumed more likely to vote for Democrats than Republicans. 

And this kind of thing can quickly get out of hand. At the University of Florida alone nearly 8,000 people voted early in 2018. This after UF students successfully sued the state in federal court to have early voting on campus. 

Follow the conspiracy theory here folks: Anybody whose ever tried to drive onto a college campus knows that parking is a nightmare. Permits are almost always required. Faculty and administrators gobble up all the spaces. Campus cops toss out tickets like confetti at a homecoming parade. 

“Location is one thing that you’re looking at. But the other thing is access. And if there’s no parking, there’s no access for many people,” Republican state senator Dennis Baxley told the Huffington Post.

Reasonable, no? Well, no, counters  Patricia Brigham, the president of the League of Women Voters of Florida. She told HuffPost: “This is not about parking. Those students with cars, they can hop in their car and go to an early voting site off campus. This about those students living on campus, who don’t have a car and they want to vote early.”

Suspicious minds. 

But listen, there is nothing more American than minimum parking requirements. In this country you can’t build anything – outhouse, corner bar, duplex, mom and pop store, shopping center or subdivision – without meeting stringent parking mandates. That’s precisely why American cities, towns, commercial centers and suburbs have the look and feel of…well, gigantic used car lots. 

These things don’t happen by accident you know. 

Parking minimums are the strange, out-dated, and totally unscientific law that’s probably languishing in your city’s zoning code,” asserts StrongTowns.org. “They sound dull (and they are) but they’re incredibly important because they have dramatically shaped our cities in a detrimental manner.”

Yeah, not to put too fine a point on it, but we have for decades been sacrificing the look, feel and very function of our civilization for the convenience of people in cars.

And, really, what’s more fundamental to American civilization than the right to vote? And is that right truly sacrosanct if we can’t park really really close to a ballot booth?

No, if anything, a sufficient parking requirement doesn’t go nearly far enough. 

If we’re serous about universal access we need to insist that all voting be conducted at fast food restaurants, parking garages, gas stations, car washes, drive-up banks, drive-through liquor and beer barns – really at any structure specifically designed to allow patriotic autoAmericans to exercise their franchise without having to leave the sanctuary of their vehicles. 

Listen, if McDonalds can serve billions, why can’t supervisors of elections?

(Ron Cunningham is former editorial page editor of The Sun.)

 

More autoAmerican anarchy

Being another update about everyday acts of anarchy in autoAmerica:

Life is cheap in autoTexas. With 10 people a day being killed on Lone Star State roads, the Texas Transportation Commission says it will adopt a “Vision Zero” plan to cut that death toll in half….in 15 years maybe. And never mind that Gov. Gregg Abbott just signed a bill to ban cameras that catch and ticket red light runners because…well a crime undetected is no crime at all in Texas. 

“Time and time again, injuries and deaths have increased in cities that have banned automated traffic enforcement,” notes Streetsblog USA. “The debate in Texas was dominated by people who felt victimized by getting tickets. But for the actual victims of red-light running crashes, the effects are pretty devastating. These crashes are fairly high-speed and often deadly.”

Case in point: With the death of 67-year old Rosalinda Portillo, 67 – run down as she crossed the street – San Antonio recorded its 25th pedestrian casualty this year. And the year’s not even half over yet. “You’re really literally playing Frogger out there,” “Texas DOT San Antonio spokesman Hernan Rozemberg told the local ABC news outlet. Truth.

Not that Texas has anything on Florida. In Daytona Beach 35-year old off-duty senior sheriff’s deputy Frank Scofield, setting out on a 35-mile bicycle ride, was killed when the driver of a van ran a stop sign. “Frank was a fearless and dedicated deputy,” Sheriff Mike Chitwood told The Daytona News-Journal. “He had a giant heart.” Ironically, Chitwood is a longtime advocate of cops on bikes. 

Meanwhile in Altamonte Springs, a car left the road, ran up onto a sidewalk and collided with a man and woman on bicycles. The couple’s 18-month old son – strapped into a carrier on dad’s bike – was killed. “The fact that we are a state that embraces the ‘share the road’ philosophy and everything like that, I don’t think it’s specific to the incident because the family was on the sidewalk, not on the roadway, so that would not be a factor in this case,” Altamonte Springs Police spokeswoman Evelyn Estevez told Fox News 13. Missing the point much?

And in Miami, a hit-and-run driver was trying to make good his escape when a group of, um, traffic vigilantes moved to stop him. Reviewing video footage of the incident the Miami Herald reports: “One of the witnesses of the crash pulls out a hammer and smashes several windows as another person yanks off the car door handle — all while the car is still moving. The report continued “In the footage, one elderly man throws his hands up in the air and shouts “No te muevas!” (Don’t move!”) The man stood near the wheels of the vehicle and the driver then accelerated. About half a dozen people crowded the car as glass fell on to the asphalt. The Herald also reports that the hit-and-run suspect has received 29 tickets in 10 years. So, one for the good guys.

But in Cape Coral 9-year-old Layla Aiken was sitting in the grass waiting for her school bus when the driver of a pickup truck apparent lost control of his vehicle while making a left-hand turn, ran off the road and killed her. “The pickup truck’s left side tires left the roadway and traveled onto the grass and dirt shoulder toward Layla,” reports WINK News. The 19-year-old driver left the scene but was later foundarrested and charged with “Leaving Scene of a Traffic Crash with Fatality; Vehicular Homicide; Possession of Cannabis and Drug Paraphernalia.”

But enough about Florida for now. On the mean streets of Algansee Township, in Michigan, three children were killed when the 21-year-old truck driver plowed into the back of a horse-drawn Amish buggy. The Battle Creek Enquirer reports that “two adults and five children inside the buggy were ejected.” The driver was arrested and “charged with three counts of operating while under the influence causing serious injury and one count of possessing a firearm while intoxicated.”

In Cincinnati drivers of two cars, apparently working in tandem, drove up and down a sidewalk multiple times seemingly looking for pedestrians to run down. A 41-year old woman was seriously injured after being slammed by one of the vehicles.

Speaking of autoTerrorism, in Draper, Utah, a driver reportedly toked on various drugs swerved across a road and hit an 11-year old girl walking a scooter. Reviewing security camera footage of the incident, police said the act was intentional. Reported fox13now.com the driver “got out of the car after the crash, aggressively walked up to the girl and said, ‘We all have to die sometime.’”

In the space of just three hours a pedestrian and a motorcyclists were killed in separate incidents in San Francisco. The deaths, reports SF Weekly bring the city’s “2019’s Vision Zero count to 14, outpacing the previous year. Eight who died were pedestrians, three were in vehicles, one was a cyclist, and another was on a skateboard.” Martha Lindsay, of Walk SF, said “This is a crisis, and city leaders must address it as such. And we cannot let anyone become numb to what’s happening. These are people, not numbers.”

And finally comes this depressing news from Streetsblog USA under the headline “States aren’t even trying to reduce traffic deaths”:

“Fifty more people dead in Michigan. Sixty one in Virginia. One hundred and six in Arizona. Those are the goals those state’s departments of transportation have set for themselves for road deaths under a new federal program challenging them to improve.

“Even some of the most progressive states are calling for more people dead under new “targets” for certain performance measures they must report to the federal government.”

Listen, when your state’s “traffic safety” goal contemplates an even higher body count than you’ve already got, they’re doing something wrong.

Stay tuned.