Thursday, February 28, 2019

The Erasure of "Hit by a Car" In Dashney Obituary

It is sad to read about the death of John Dashney in the paper today. He had led a full life and was an author, and the newsy obituary rightly emphasizes these things.

But it fails to give the right weight and emphasis to the crash that significantly impacted the last few years of his life.

The piece merely notes in passing that he was "severely injured...after being hit by a car." Even with an enumeration of injuries, this is an inadequate description of events. There are space limits, of course, but the passive voice mystifies too much.

From a September 2012 Statesman-Journal piece:
The woman who hit him, Rose Litherland, was high on methamphetamine and marijuana when she barreled through the intersection of 17th and Chemeketa. She did not have a valid driver’s license and is legally blind herself. She has been sentenced to nearly six years in prison.
The median and crosswalk
where Litherland struck Dashney in 2012
You can see the crash investigation paint
The neighborhood had talked about this intersection years before. Here's something from 2008:
NEN has requested, through the City C.I.P. process, that a crossing (island median type) be installed on the south side of the intersection at 17th and Chemeketa. [redacted] and I walk every morning and were nearly hit (when a car stopped for us and was then rear-ended by two other cars). John Dashney (who is blind) and [redacted] (who is also blind) walk on the south side of Chemeketa many times daily. We have watched cars whiz by when he is in the intersection, even though he used a white cane. Since Chemeketa is designated a a bike route, we believe that it adds to the urgency. Many state workers also cross there to and from work.

We believe the south side of the intersection is best, because it's the route our vision impaired neighbors [use].
It is not right at all to say that this history is more important than his writing and authorship, but Dashney also has a place in the history of walking and road safety here in Salem, and it shaped his life in profound ways.

It is not fair to him to cast the misfortune of his injuries as "merely" accidental, the result of some mysterious auto force acting upon a passive victim. "Hit by a car" is plainly wrong.

Rinse, Repeat: Earlier this month
A person, acting and operating a car with real carelessness, hurt him. And the harm exists in the context of an autoist system that does not adequately protect other road users, and fails to provide sufficient mobility for people who do not use a car.

For more notes on erasing the driver, see here.

Two empty spaces: On the front page today
Below the news about Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, there were two snowy "fields" on the front page today. And for one of them there is a pervasive element of a metaphorical kind of blindness or erasure. We see the openness of the dog park, but we do not see the vast empty space in a parking lot. We look past the void in the urban fabric, the wasted or slack space.

The Downtown Advisory Board was to meet today. That meeting's been cancelled and the agenda packet is no longer on the City website. They were going to talk about the Downtown Sidewalk Study. To an earlier version of the meeting packet they'd appended an ODOT aerial image from last spring.

Too much Parking: The emptiness of downtown
Look at how much empty space there is! So much parking! So many voids!

We just don't see all the negative space. Somehow we see it as positive space in the built environment. We look past it or are blind to it.

Seeing parking as emptiness is a gestalt shift we need to make! We need to see the parking lots as regrettable, as low-value, and something to move away from.

1 comment:

Ken said...

I was there when John was hit, I had to go out into the street to block traffic because cars continued to go through the intersection with John almost in the middle of the street. I had asked Public Works to put in a flashing yellow light for pedestrians to trigger to cross before this happened and was told they didn't want to slow down traffic.