|Pedestrian Safety Study|
|They knew better|
More than anything else, the study avoids the asymmetry in speed, power, and lethality between people in cars and people on foot.
|Recommendation: Reconsider jaywalking laws|
|Our earlier campaign to criminalize walking:|
"The forgotten history of how automakers
invented the crime of 'jaywalking'"
|Hopefully we are not heading towards|
requirements for Pedestrian Safety Equipment
Back in January 2016, City Council received a report from Public Works and the Police on people killed while walking in Salem. (Notes on the first version here, and on a slightly revised version here.) This led the City to commission a more detailed report from an outside consultant. That report has been published and the City will hold a brown bag open house on it November 13th at noon in the Library as well as present more formally the findings to Council that evening in a work session before the Council meeting proper. (See the City facebook for the event announcement.)
Where is a discussion of speed?
One of the biggest, maybe outright the biggest period, omission is a map or table of posted speeds where the crashes occurred.
|Know what's missing? Posted Speed.|
Here for example is a pie chart for roadway character and for weather.
|(The pagination has been altered for clarity)|
|Death especially seems to be gendered|
Instead, the section on behavior dwells oddly on "illegal," "distracted," or "impaired" walking, and crucially relies on a fabricated category that has no basis in City of Salem statute or code. It is hard not to think it is fundamentally premised on impugning and marginalizing "bad behavior" by people on foot. There is a real bias here.
The most commonly reported contributing factor to pedestrian crashes during the study period was the driver’s failure to yield (53%). Other reported factors include: pedestrian illegally in the roadway (30%), pedestrian not visible (14%), driver disregarding a traffic signal (11%), and inattention (3%). Although intoxication was not listed as a contributing factor in the ODOT crash database, a review of the police report narratives indicated that four of the 13 fatal crashes and three of the 29 serious injury crashes involved a pedestrian that was likely impaired (alcohol, drugs, or both).Hotspot and Corridor Assessment
It should be noted that all Oregon crash data is maintained by the State of Oregon, and thus references to “illegal” behavior (such as “pedestrian illegally in roadway” or “pedestrian violation”) are categorized based on State laws. Such “illegal” behaviors include pedestrians crossing at unmarked mid-block locations, pedestrians crossing against signals or signs, pedestrians laying or standing in the roadway, and pedestrians entering the roadway unexpectedly. In the City of Salem, however, there are no jaywalking laws and it is legal for pedestrians to cross a roadway at any location. Because it is difficult or even impossible to isolate the exact behavior that warranted the “illegal” categorization, there is no way to re-categorize the crashes based on City of Salem laws. Therefore, the terms “pedestrian illegally in roadway” and “pedestrian violation” are still referenced in this report, even though a subset of the behaviors may not actually be illegal in the City of Salem. [italics added]
There are several maps that usefully locate crashes, but the one that specifically lists fatalities is hampered by the way it erases the identity of the dead. Without names or photos, we abstract them into statistics and rob them of essential human dignity. It is not to be ghoulish to think we should more squarely face the human cost of our roadways and autoism. Additionally, the lack of names and personhood makes it easier to blame them for "illegal" walking. This is a rhetorical move that supports autoism. (See below on Mission Street for more on this.)
Crucially, none of the deaths happens on a neighborhood "local street" or even a "collector street." One death is on a "minor arterial," and all the others on "major arterials" or greater. It's not just traffic volumes that are higher on these streets! Speeds are higher also, and speed, not count of cars, is what kills people. Count of cars might be an important ingredient in the probability of a crash - more cars, more people, more opportunities - but the lethality of the crash is largely determined by speed.
|The deaths mapped (highlight added for clarity)|
|Hotspots (magenta), corridors (green)|
|Speeding, aggression, non-yielding|
|A little about speeding, but nothing about posted speeds|
Overall the recommendations focus on countermeasures to channelize or guide people on foot to the right time, manner, and place for walking. They don't talk at all about reducing speed for drivers.
|Nothing about posted speeds or design speeds|
They mention "speeding," "aggressive driving," "pedestrian delays," "few gaps in traffic," "feels unsafe," etc. But the root cause here is that we have prioritized auto through-put. The cars and their speeds are the problem - not distracted, impaired, or otherwise improper walking.
The Study concludes with a call to "reconsider the lack of jaywalking laws." It puts the burden for safety on people on foot, not people in cars.
The City might instead think more about jaydriving, about posted speeds, design speeds, and even a "twenty is plenty" approach to urban speed.
Until we grapple more seriously with driving, drivers, and road design, our "solutions" will be cosmetic at best.
Speed and the Mission Street and Commercial Street Corridors
Let's drill into a couple of the most problematic corridors. The first one is a State Highway and is posted for highway speeds.
|85th percentile speeds on Mission Street|
Drivers routinely exceed 50mph here
From the OR-22 Existing Conditions memo and City of Salem
|Connor Jordan's death|
|Connor Jordon, 22|
via The Province
About Mission Street, the study says only:
High vehicle volumes along entire corridor, pedestrian usage is highest west of Airport Road. High density of driveways west of 25th Street which creates more conflict points for pedestrians and vehicles. Night observation revealed that several lights along corridor were non-functioning.
|If you are struck at 50mph here on Mission St, you are dead|
(These two photos are from the ODOT project site)
|Alex Armes death mentions nothing about speed,|
but blames "likely intoxication." He was 18.
|4245 people/day speed more than 10mph over limit here|
Salem Presentation Slides, Dec2014
|Nothing about speed here|
|Alex Armes obituary|
Even if Alex Armes was intoxicated and underage, he did not deserve to die. Since it was a hit-and-run, we do not know if the driver's lights were on or if the driver was themself intoxicated. Moreover, an elderly person or a young child crossing the road in the morning or early evening might make similar errors of judgement or perception, but they are not intoxicated and also do not deserve censure. A safe roadway system operates for the young and old as well as a person walking home from a bar or party (who might have made the right choice instead of driving).
In a foundational way, the study misses the centrality of lethal posted speeds and 85% speeds on roads where drivers have killed people walking. It also blames victims, shifts too much responsibility to people on foot, and absolves drivers, engineering, and road design too quickly. The balance is wrong and Council should not accept this study as-is.
|With jaywalking laws, this walk to the bus stop would be illegal|
- "Before Jaywalking: In 1914 Street Crossings Belonged to Pedestrians"
- "Cars Rule, Walkers Drool! Othering the Person on Foot"
- "Why so much Acceptance for Traffic Cone Theory of Walking?"
- "Jay Driving deserves Revival as Term of Opprobrium!"
- "Conflicting Narratives about Walking Jostle in Story on Memorial to Crosslands"
- "Why Pedestrian Rights themselves may not be Sufficient"
- "Before Jaywalking: Pedestrian Rights and a Dangerous Instrumentality in 1921"
- "A Century Ago: Speed Maniacs, Autoists, and the Fight over Road Space"