Commentary

Human road kill

A team of British psychologists appears to have identified why it has become so unsafe to be on or near a modern roadway unless encased in a cage of steel and coined a word for it: “Motonormativity.”

Motonormativity, according to the team led by researcher Ian Walker, defines the “unconscious biases due to cultural assumptions about the role of private cars” that excuses bad driving for causing death and leads political leaders to dismiss the need to protect pedestrians and cyclists – so-called “vulnerable road users” – from cars and trucks.

Put simply, the researchers contend that many Western societies are now conditioned to believe that the deaths of vulnerable road users are nothing more than the price that must be paid to satisfy desires for transportation systems designed to make travel by motor vehicle as fast and as easy as possible.

Thus when a pedestrian is rundown on Anchorage’s Abbott Road as happened in broad daylight on Saturday afternoon, and the Anchorage Police Department actually charges the driver involved in the collision – something which almost never happens in Alaska’s largest city – some rush to the defend the driver.

“….There were several witnesses on the scene who stated the driver wasn’t at fault,” someone identifying as Tiphanie Huckstep promptly posted on the APD Facebook page in the wake of the accident, “and the person ran out in the road in front of the vehicle in a way they believe he wasn’t able to prevent the accident. 🤔 There was a field sobriety test and the only other one done was a blood test, but those must have come back already right? Just asking since having him blow didn’t produce results and I watched the field sobriety test done on uneven around and I didnt see any signs of impairment? I’m no an official, but a bystander and these details paint someone in an unfair light. I’d like the results of the blood test being completed before you put this poor kid on blast. I’m sure he experienced some shock and trauma today as well.”

There is no mention of how fast 22-year-old Jaden Jabaay was driving when he struck and killed 20-year-old Jasper Bowers, a veteran of the fabled Seward Mount Marathon, but speed is always a factor in collisions that leave pedestrians dead.

According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), 90 percent of people hit by a car doing 23 mph or less survive, and 75 percent survive being struck at speeds between 24 and 32 mph. After that, the odds fall fast with 50 percent survival at 42 mph, 25 percent at 50 mph and 10 percent at 58 mph or more.

“Risks vary significantly by age,” the AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety adds. “For example, the average risk of severe injury or death for a 70‐year‐old pedestrian struck by a car travelling at 25 mph is similar to the risk for a 30‐year‐old pedestrian struck at 35 mph.”

That didn’t help Bowers.

Abbott Road is a suburban thoroughfare with a posted speed limit of 45 mph, but people regularly drive the road at 55 mph or faster, and many ignore environmental conditions that can, in winter’s such as this, render the 45 mph limit too fast.

“Safety issues have…increased, with growing speeds and volumes of traffic on roads that are often icy and slick,” the Municipalities 2010 Hillside District Plan warned. The plan was full of concerns about traffic speeds and safety, but nothing happened to lessen those dangers after the plan was written.

Lowering road speeds in Anchorage is unpopular, and the speed limits on city streets are rarely enforced. APD efforts to catch speeding drivers largely focus on the Seward and Glenn Highways, where pedestrian access is banned. Speeding on roads used by vulnerable road users is virtually non-existent.

Politics

There are good reasons.

Speeding, as the British researchers noted, “is an illegal behavior practiced by most drivers that is widely indulged by the public, the media, and the justice system. The treatment of speeding and dangerous driving can be contrasted with other infringements of law that are much more socially disapproved, such as littering, graffiti, public drunkenness, or street noise, unless that noise comes from motor vehicles, of course.

“But if (this) motonormativity were just the casual acceptance of illegal and antisocial behavior we would be writing (this paper) for a criminological audience; perhaps more serious is that motonormative thinking is also endemic in the medical and sustainability worlds and the surrounding policy spheres.  It is at the root of how we address vulnerable road user injury by asking what the victims were wearing  rather than why they were expected to mix in the first place with vehicles carrying thousands of tons more kinetic energy.”

This victim-blaming behavior emerged in the wake of Bowers’ death, too, with one post on the APD Facebook page suggesting “jaywalking,” as if it were illegal for pedestrians to cross the endless number of roads in the municipality lacking crosswalks, and another claimed that Bowers shouldn’t have been where he was because it was a “private driveway.”

Absolving drivers of any responsibility for killing people does not make for better drivers, and the results are written in blood.

“More than 7,000 pedestrians were killed on (U.S.) roads in crashes involving a motor vehicle in 2020,” according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). “That’s about one death every 75 minutes.

“One in six people who died in crashes in 2020 were pedestrians. Most pedestrian deaths occur in urban areas, on roadway locations away from intersections – where higher speeds might occur – and at night.”

Often, the dead are victims of both bad transportation corridor design that ignores anything but motor-vehicle traffic and bad drivers. The Governors Highway Safety Association is now reporting the pedestrian death toll rose to near 7,500 in 2021. Their preliminary data suggests “drivers struck and killed 7,485 people walking in 2021 – the most in a single year in four decades.”

The death rate, according to the association’s numbers, was 20 percent above the long-term average, and the “data analysis revealed a troubling statistic: The percentage of speeding-related pedestrian deaths among children younger than 15 has more than doubled since 2018, from 5.8 percent to 11.9 percent.”

Some parents have noticed.

Drive Like Your Kids Live Here” signs appear to be sprouting like dandelions all over the country – and yes, even in Anchorage – but there are no indications they are slowing drivers down or making them any more attentive.

A sign posted last summer near the intersection of Abbott and Elmore roads, not far from where Bowers was hit and killed by a motorist over the weekend/Craig Medred photo

 

There seems more concern about the “shock and trauma” of someone behind the wheel of a car that kills a fellow human though some of them seem no more bothered by this than if they had killed a moose or someone’s pet dog.

With a young man dead along Abbott Road,  the concern for some became the possibility the driver behind the wheel was being painted “in an unfair light,” but this is exactly the reason why APD itself rarely identifies the drivers involved in fatal collisions. Killing someone with your car is generally considered an “accident,”  in the view of local police.

And when there is an accident, according to a department spokeswoman, the agency doesn’t “identify people unless charges are filed.”

This sort of behavior on the part of authorities, according to the researchers from Swansea University’s Walkers and colleagues from the University of West of England, helps define the Theory of Motonormativity which identifies “a cultural inability to think objectively and dispassionately….aris(ing)because of shared, largely unconscious assumptions about how travel is, and must continue to be, primarily a car-based activity.”

When two days after the Abbott Road death another pedestrian was killed by a hit-and-run driver in the early morning hours along  Spenard Road in Anchorage, the first post on the APD Facebook page again put the blame on the dead person:

“I live by here. People run across from the Alex (Hotel and Suites) to the store all the time. All hours of the day. Crosswalk is 100 feet away. It was not if. But when.

“In saying that. Running. Come on man.”

The thinking beyond such posts is based on the now normal idea that anyone venturing onto or near a roadway without the protection of a steel cage is accepting the risk of being killed – asking for it, if you will – and thus if they are killed, it is their fault. There is, ironically, far less public acceptance of one driver running his or her car into another and killing someone than in a driver killing a vulnerable road user because the death of the vulnerable road user is expected in such collisions while the steel cage is supposed to protect people.

The societal costs of such thinking are, unfortunately, not limited to the deaths of the relatively small number of innocent people run down and killed by motor vehicles on the road. The societal costs have been far greater – albeit less obvious – in the damage to public health.

“Here in the United Kingdom, like in many societies around the world, we are in the midst of environmental degradation and no fewer than three parallel health epidemics thanks to the easy hypermobility afforded by private motor vehicles,’ the British researchers observed. “We have an epidemic of collisions, with 1,752 deaths and 25,945 serious injuries in 2019, the last year before the Covid pandemic, (and) we have an epidemic of physical inactivity responsible for 22 to 23 percent of coronary heart disease, 16 to 17 percent of colon cancer, 15 percent of diabetes, 12 to 13 percent of strokes and 11 percent of breast cancer despite 24 percent of car trips being under two miles and so mostly amenable to walking or cycling.

“And we have an epidemic of pollution  with vehicle exhaust fumes causing cancer, heart disease and diabetes at such levels that (Royal College of Physicians) estimates have put the UK air pollution death toll at 40,000 per year.”

U.S. deaths linked to a general lack of fitness and obesity are as high or higher than those in the UK, and though no one has yet to do the study tying pandemic deaths to lack and fitness and obesity, the number when it comes in is sure to be a big one. British researchers at the very start of the pandemic calculated that slow walkers –  slow walking being an easy measure of basic fitness – had about a two-and-a-half times greater chance of dying from Covid-19 than brisk walkers.

The motor vehicle was one of humankind’s greatest inventions of the 20th century, but the motonormativity it spawned is now making the species pay in many ways. We have met the enemy, and it is parked in our driveways and garages.

Forget about any future issues with global warming, motonormativity is causing big-time problems in the here and now. And the holy grail of climate change crusaders – the electric car – won’t fix these problems.

“Even a future switch to electric vehicles would address only one of (the) three epidemics,” Walker and his colleagues wrote. “It is
clear we must acknowledge a simple fact: transport issues are not just environmental issues: they are also inherently public health issues.”

But who wants to face those facts when it’s a lot easier to get in the car and drive a few blocks to a friend’s house for dinner than to walk there?

 

22 replies »

  1. This is a horrible tragedy. Perhaps in the future technology will render these stories a thing of the past. Even now many cars come with lane keeping assist, driver distraction assist and automated pedestrian braking. Maybe fully automated cars are not too far away. An end to intoxicated drivers , sleepy drivers and pedestrian deaths would be a welcome advancement.

    • Let’s hope, but at this time the tech is just being blamed for accidents caused by people driving too fast, driving too close or simply not paying attention as in “Watch: Self-Driving Tesla Causes an Eight-Car Pile Up On SF Bay Bridge.” If you actually watch, however, the Tesla signals, brakes and rather gently pulls to the side of the road only to have the cars behind it start piling into each other. The first of them rather gently bumps the Tesla. The next one manages to safety stop before hitting the vehicle in front of it. But then it is rearended and the rearerender is rearendeded and the rearender of the readerender is rearended and repeat, repeat, repeat with steadily accumulating damage. The vehicle that causes the most damage appears to be the sixth or seventh one that slams at some speed into what is now a whole string of parked cars. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E531GxfEoB8

  2. “……..There were several witnesses on the scene who stated the driver wasn’t at fault,” someone identifying as Tiphanie Huckstep promptly posted on the APD Facebook page in the wake of the accident, “and the person ran out in the road in front of the vehicle in a way they believe he wasn’t able to prevent the accident……..”
    Did he, or did he not, dart out onto the roadway into motor vehicle traffic? Can we not accept the statements of “several witnesses” in this tragedy?

    • Witness testimony is horribly unreliable, especially when witnesses get together and start “validating” their opinions of what they thought they saw. Thus I don’t know if anyone can answer your question.

      Personally, I would tend to believe Jasper entered the roadway or at least moved off the edge of the roadway into a position that made him vulnerable. According to one of the witnesses, the driver of the vehicle that hit him made no effort to avoid the collision.

      Was that vehicle on the shoulder of the roadway or the road itself? Did the driver try to brake? Was the driver speeding?

      The answer to those questions will shed light on who did what. But drivers are not allowed to simply run over people because they step on the pavement though the treatment of these collisions might sometimes indicate that. There remains a responsibility to drive responsibly.

      And the braking and avoidance questions raise the whole issue of impairment. The entire argument against drunk and drugged driving is built around impairment, ie. people with slowed reaction times are more likely to be involved in accidents. Granted, we seem a lot more tolerant of drivers running into vulnerable road users and killing them than in drivers rear-ending motor vehicles in a manner that leaves others seriously injured, but the principle here is the same:

      Drivers have an inherent responsibility not to run into people or things.

  3. The 5 Basic Laws of Human Stupidity
    Law 1: Everyone always and inevitably underestimates the number of stupid people in circulation.
    Law 2: The probability that a person is stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.
    Law 3. A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or group of people when he or she does not benefit and may even suffer losses.
    Law 4: Non-stupid people always underestimate the destructive power of stupid individuals.
    Law 5: A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person.

    I submit that the majority of drivers are stupid people. In the area I live, it was reported that over 20 moose were killed in the last couple weeks alone. Now the majority of us know that we are in Alaska and that it’s dark in the winter in Alaska and that it’s cold in the winter in Alaska and that snow and ice on a dark frozen road makes it harder to stop a vehicle. And yet a majority of us drive as if it’s summertime and we can see like it’s daylight and that ice slick roads don’t exist.

    There are already laws on the books regarding speed limits and driving based upon the conditions, maybe we need to have summer and winter speed limits posted and then enforce those limits?

    • “…….I submit that the majority of drivers are stupid people…….”
      I submit that the majority of pedestrians who dart out onto roadways in front of motor vehicles must also, by your logic, be stupid people. Maybe even more stupid than the drivers wrapped and belted inside steel cages with very expensive crash bags designed to prevent physical trauma.
      Or one might accept that accidents like this have been occurring worldwide for a good century now, and the best way to avoid them is to limit your bodily exposure to motor vehicles.

      • Reggie: I’d like to agree with you, but I used to commute by bicycle from Anchorage to town and the fastest route required crossing O’Malley and Abbott roads. On cold days, this sometimes meant standing at an intersection until hypothermia set in or trying to shoot through a gap in traffic.

        I’d submit that pedestrians who “dart,” as you put it, out onto Hillside roadways are just trying to get across. Midtown might be another matter. I sometimes honestly wonder if some of the homeless people aren’t trying to get hit. Hospitals have warm beds, and the food isn’t all that bad.

        With all of this said, I will only add that it is interesting that I am now down in Boise, Idaho, visiting my daughter and have regularly had to cross Hill Road to take the dog for his daily walk in the nearby park. Hill is a lot like Abbott with one exception: I’ve regularly had people who saw the dog and I on the side of the road, put on their flashers, and stop to let us across when they saw we had one lane already clear of traffic.

        In all my years of crossing O’Malley and Abott, I NEVER had that happen. And I’m pretty sure no one ever slowed down in case I might fall on days when the road was slippery. Drivers always seemed pretty well immersed in the Don Smith idea that the roads are “automotive territory.”

        And clearly that view applied to the people who over the years went out of their way to close pass me within inches because I was using part of an Anchorage roadway (ie. “automotive territory) onto which a designated bike lane had been painted. Do you know Anchorage has a three-foot passing law? If you do, I’ll bet you can’t guess how many tickets have been written for violating that law in the last five years.

  4. The notion that the motorist is virtually always at fault and the pedestrian absolved from responsibility in car pedestrian encounters is problematic. Surely, motorists should attempt to yield to pedestrians, but putting a 4,000 pound auto in evasive maneuvers is dicey and time consuming. On the other hand pedestrians can stop almost instantly. Pedestrians can change direction almost instantly. Yet we have evolved to this notion that pedestrians always has the right of way. This assumption has given too many pedestrians the idea that they have invincibility. That applies to our thinking about bicyclists as well.

    How many times have you driven on Ingra, Gamble or the Seward Highway and witnessed pedestrians jaywalking? And it isn’t casual jaywalking, they run across the streets in poorly timed opportunities to avoid autos traveling 45 MPH. Strike one of those jaywalkers with your car and your whole life will get turned upside down. The presumption of the authorities and the ADN is you could have avoided the collision.

    This morning I was amazed watching some fool on a bicycle attempting to navigate Spenard Road. He was all over the place swinging wildly into oncoming traffic. I don’t know the outcome of his ride, but if some hapless driver had struck the bicyclist with an auto the presumption of guilt is on the auto driver. That is wrong!

    • Well Don, having spent the summer getting around Anchorage by primarily bicycle or on foot as an experiment, I can assure you the number of jaywalkers is small, bordering on tiny, compared to the number of motorists who run red lights. I actually used the ARCA light, one of the few that works when you push the button, as an experiment at times. I hope no blind people or intellectually handicapped people actually use that light.

      One evening I watched six cars in a row blow through the red light while I stood there on the side of the road, and it was seldom safe to walk when the “walk” sign came on because there would invariably be someone trying to “beat the red” long after the light turned red.

      Then there is the small problem of drivers driving with their noses in their phones because they’re texting or reading emails or catching up with Facebook or doing whatever they do. You’d be amazed how many of them are doing this. It’s actually surprising there isn’t a death a day of those Midtown jaywalkers you mention, most of whom are homeless people who I agree with you are a problem.

      They have very little judgment. They’re like children. Thankfully, well-educated, middle- and upper-class parents now know that because of the way drivers drive it’s not safe to let their kids walk anywhere, so they provide chauffeur service. This, of course, adds significantly to traffic congestion in parts of Anchorage.

      But never mind.

      As for any presumptions of authorities attending motor vehicle accidents, you’re delusional. The situation is nearly the exact opposite of what you describe. Rundown someone with your car, and it’s almost guaranteed the authorities will do their utmost to “protect” you. A driver actually even being named, as happened in this latest case, is a rarity. An extreme rarity.

      Tell me now: What was the name of the woman on the Glenn Highway who hit the moped from behind so hard with her SUV a few years back that the driver went over the top of her car and died on impact with the ground behind. That certainly taught him he shouldn’t be driving on the Glenn even if his vehicle could meet the minimum posted speed requirement, didn’t it!

      That homonormativity thing reigns in Anchorage, and it’s not just pedestrians or motorcyclists. It’s anyone or anything who gets in the way of a motor vehicle, say maybe a blind man out walking his guide dog. https://www.alaskasnewssource.com/2023/01/24/blind-man-says-he-was-struck-by-snowplow-spenard-then-had-trouble-reporting-it/

      And the presumption is that if a driver hits anyone, the person the driver hits is guilty, and if that person dies (the blind man was merely a troublemaker; he didn’t even get hit), the driver must be suffering some severe trauma. I’m sure some might be traumatized. But none of the people I’ve met who’ve hit and killed pedestrians or cyclists seemed very traumatized. They were comfortable in the Don-Smith bubble of “those people were asking for it. Not my fault. Why should I be concerned?If they’re worried about their safety, they wouldn’t be walking or cycling.”

      There is, of course, an easy way to reduce deaths here. Slow down traffic. But we can’t do that because people will complain.

      As a good conservative, I’d think you’d be all for this to maybe try to get kids moving again to help save on the billion of dollars in healthcare costs this country now faces or at least hold those costs stable. There is, if you haven’t noticed, an epidemic of childhood obesity that is likely to send health care spending for obesity-related problems into the trillions of dollars in the future.

      But then again, you’re an old fart like me so you might consider the future irrelevant compared to your desire to get around in your car as fast and easily as you want today. And don’t worry.

      If you hit someone and kill them, remain at the scene acting like you’re upset, and if you haven’t been drinking or noticeably doing drugs, nothing will happen. The authorities won’t even give your name in the ADN or any other news organization in the city, and the way the news is now, there ain’t none of it unless it is handed ouy by authorities.

      • Craig, You have morphed my comments into something not said and never intended. I have no qualms about holding drivers accountable in collisions with pedestrians when the driver has violated some precept or law regarding operation of motor vehicles. That said, I am skeptical of your avowed observation that “six cars in a row blow through the red light.” I’ve never seen that in Anchorage and my friends at APD laughed when I showed them your comment. Hyperbole and facts have always had a difficult relationship.

        Your attempt at obfuscation by bringing into the conversation events that having nothing to do with my thesis is irrelevant. The Glenn Highway moped incident is a perfect example. For the record, mopeds are illegal on the Glenn Highway, so I see not what that has to do with pedestrian car collisions.

        There is not a driver in Anchorage who does not believe we have a problem with jay walkers crossing busy streets while wearing dark clothes. There isn’t a driver in Anchorage who has not seen one of those jaywalkers appear from nowhere and was not greatly relieved they did not strike that person with their auto. When that collision does occur the hapless driver is burdened with enormous financial and emotional problems. In almost all cases that is caused by a pedestrian inebriated and/or walking in automotive territory in total disregard of the circumstances.

        I still maintain it is far easier for a pedestrian to avoid a automobile than it is for an automobile to avoid a pedestrian who wanders into traffic. The law should reflect that fundamental fact.

      • Don: Well, I’m glad to see we agree on the problem with homeless people wandering into the streets of Midtown. Given no one wants to do anything about the homeless problem, maybe it would be a good idea to slow speeds there down to 30 mph so we kill fewer of them.

        It’s nice your friends at APD got a laugh, too. If that really happened. Better than laughing would be if they spent some time pushing the button on that light to see what happens. They could make a lot of money writing tickets there if they wanted. If you want, I’m happy to send you a photo I took one day of a truck in the middle of the walk lane with the walk sign lit as it flew through that crossing. I could have filled a whole scrapbook with such photos if I’d wanted.

        Now please link me the statute or regulation saying mopeds are illegal on the Glenn Highway. Street legal mopeds are legal on streets. If they are illegal on the Glenn, I would expect it is because they can’t meet some minimum speed requirement. Is there a minimum speed requirement on the Glenn? I couldn’t find one with some quick Google searching, and I don’t recall ever seeing a “Minimum Speed” sign there.

        I do have recollections of seeing minimum speed signs of 45 mph in some states other than Alaska, but Google would indicate my memory is faulty. It turns up lots of states instead have a minimum of 40 as in Connecticut which requires 40 mph on its limited access, divided highways. Wikipedia lists 40 mph as the minimum on rural interstates with 70mph speed limits, too.

        I wouldn’t want to be on an interstate on a moped doing 40, and I definitely wouldn’t want to be on one on the Glenn doing that speed.
        But if the moped was licensed as a motor vehicle, it would appear legal in these places. The problem is that some driver might just decide it something to run over.

        That’s the big problem, which was the main point of my response. You seem to have missed it, though it’s pretty simple. It boils down to this” Drivers were once supposed to be responsible for avoiding objects in front of them. In some cases, they still are.

        If you rear-end another car stopped in the road, this rule always applies. The collision is automatically presumed to be your fault unless you can somehow show that it wasn’t.

        If you hit anything else, however, a whole other standard seems to apply now. It somehow automatically becomes the fault of the pedestrian, the cyclist, the moose, the debris or whatever it is you hit. It doesn’t even seem to matter if you never try to touch the brake or steer around the object.

        Unless someone is inside another car, roads are treated as kill zones, and you can run over whatever you want: Motonormativity.

        I’ve been here a long time. I can actually remember back to when Alaska State Troopers would occasionally hand an “unsafe speed” ticket to someone who hit a moose while driving fast on slippery roads. I never hear of that happening anymore, and I’ve seen some moose hit by people driving way too fast on slippery roads.

        It’s a big double standard. Hell, in Anchorage you can run a red light and kill a cyclist and get away with it, but you better not run a red light and kill someone in an another car or you’re headed for jail.

        The last of your observations are just wild speculation. Some people are no doubt troubled by hitting someone “in automotive territory” as you call it; some aren’t because they believe as you do that the road is “automotive territory.” And if there is anything humans do well, it is rationalize to put the blame on others.

        That said, I would note your last claim is at least testable. How about you jump out in front of traffic on foot somewhere along Northern Lights at rush hour and see how well you can dodge the cars and trucks. That would help resolve the question of who can best avoid a collision.

        Maybe then you’d also come to understand the differences between risks and consequences, which is why vulnerable road users need more protection rather than less.

    • Here’s a bit of a thought experiment:

      A schizophrenic walks out into traffic on Tudor and jumps about yelling and screaming. Is the security of the pedestrian more important than the incremental time it takes you to get to your destination?

      In as much as this actually happened I suppose I was not surprised that at least half the people present seemed more than willing to drive through the fellow providing there was no damage to their vehicle.

      You are operating a 1 ton death machine that is involved in the death and/or injury of millions. Cease with the whataboutisms, check your privilege, recognize that one day you might require some compassion, and slow the fuck down.

  5. Hi, Craig. I live in Northern Ireland these days (had lived in England for 15 years before that) and moved there from Anchorage back in 2006.

    As we moved to London, we didn’t use or want a car, so we started walking. Not only dropped weight, but picked up some light asthma from the pollutants in the London area until we decided to move away from the city in 2021.

    From there, life even got better for health. No more asthma at all, and given more walking here in good country air, along with better eating, at my best weight since I was 18. So, why this reply?

    It’s because we’ve lived without a car in a town of only 23,000 people miles from a large city — and we’re doing it. We’re known locally as ‘those guys who walk’ for here as well as everywhere with cars supported so deeply, people just don’t walk. And the roads show it. Little regard for bike and walk safety; that general attitude that walkers are the problem as they think they have ‘some sort of right to cross the roads wherever they want’. It’s all about the free flow of motorcars here, too.

    And it is still getting worse from the time I was a teenager in Anchorage and having people shout at me to ‘Get a horse!’ or ‘Couldn’t pass the test or something?’ kind of comments. So, one is either too poor to own a car or too stupid to own one, evidently. All to say, it’s one more prejudice heaped upon another.

    I drove for four decades. I finally gave it up for health and our air, but what I’ve learned since is what you’re writing about: We are far too dependent and have built everything to benefit travel by autos, to the detriment of other means. And drviers don’t see it. They really do believe people who walk are weird, at the very least. They know the RIGHT WAY to exercise is to get in one’s car, drive to the gym, exercise, and then hop in the car again to go through a taco drive-through for lunch.

    Oh well. No, they don’t understand. The car has grabbed their minds. And across the world, in one place after another, we live in places built for cars rather than people. Silly, stupid and harmful in so many ways — but folk can’t see it until they get out of their cars & walk. And take the risks of pitting themselves against two tons of metal every day, to see what it’s like.

    RIP, Jasper. You left far too soon. I’m on your side.

    • Indeed, we have a societal attitude problem. I’ve actually been in an e-mail conversation for too much of the day with a woman who witnessed the accident and insists the cause of Jasper’s death was “suicide.” Her evidence for this? The local newspaper said he was a “runner,” and “he had boots on; he was not out for a jog” and he wasn’t in “the process of running to a destination,” but “quickly and suddenly entered the intersection (though he wasn’t at an intersection) in front of oncoming traffic.”

      The quick entry is the case for almost anyone, or any moose, trying to cross a busy Abbott Road on foot or by bicycle. I only mention the moose because a lot of them get hit on Abbott and other Hillside roads as well, and the collisions are invariably considered “accidents” though many are simply the result of bad/inattentive driving.

      I’ve seen moose hit on these roads in the winter when it was barely safe driving 20 mph with the truck chained up, and people were doing 45 downhill, which makes the braking distance somewhere near forever.

      She also admitted the driver made no effort to avoid Jasper, but then defended that with the claim that if had made any effort to swerve, he would have hit her head on, though the road has a usable shoulder here. Needless to say, she didn’t mention braking, so the driver would have room to maneuver around Japser, or swerving herself so as to indicate to the driver that there was space to avoid the collision.

      And she defended any possible drug or alcohol involvement with this: “If the driver was impaired in any way, this is a case of extreme coincidence and poor timing, and of course a bad decision on the part of the driver.”

      She is either clueless as to the way drugs and alcohol impair reaction times or so deep into motonormativity that drugs and alcohol don’t matter. And that sort of sums up where we’re at. Pretty much any death is written off as a fault of the victim even if, as in this case, law enforcement decides a driver bears some culpability.

      And that is in and of itself a rare conclusion.

  6. Motorized vehicles are one of the greatest freedoms and pleasures we have in our human society – ever since oil was discovered and the combustion engine was perfected. The primary problem, exacerbated by our snow berms and slow street plowing problems is the moving vehicles and pedestrians are crowded together.
    Perhaps we should begin to develop an alternative transportation system for pedestrians, bicycles, and ev’s with a size and 10mph speed limit. This system would have it’s own plowing and maintenance staff to manage operations.

  7. Another good article, Craig; keep them coming. One thing about this one though: You make some good points BUT kind of one sided. I’d take a more balanced approach: BOTH drivers AND pedestrians need to use common sense and take basic safety precautions.

    • What’s one-sided. I think we all agree pedestrians have to use good judgment, and there is a huge incentive for them to do so. If they don’t, they’re inviting death.

      What is the incentive for drivers? We’ve made motor vehicles safer and safer and safer. If you hit something on a urban road/street at a speed of less than 45 mph you’re unlikely to die these days. Even in a head on at 45 mph, you have about a 90 percent chance of surviving. https://www.motorbiscuit.com/speed-die-car-crash/

      What’s to discourage anyone from texting or eating or doing the many other things people do in cars other than pay attention to their driving?

  8. The Assembly is paralyzed by fear and refuses to even consider that we need to:
    * Reduce speed limits to 30km/hr on residential streets and 50km/hr on collectors
    * Automated speed enforcement
    * Day fines
    * civil in rem enforcement against vehicles
    * planning and design that puts the most vulnerable FIRST (not last)
    * effective public transport

    We have known how to do this and many countries have been very successful, especially Scandinavian venues.

    We have to acknowledge that oyr refusal to do anything renders us culpable in tge deaths and injuries of others

  9. There are many factors involved, and if we want to make pedestrians and cyclists safer all we need is the will to do so. First we have to recognise human ability, not the most skillful driver but the below average driver, and also we have to recognise how people drive, usually five over, or ten. We need to separate the two modes of transportation physically as much as possible. Simple as that.

    We can’t legislate ability, and charging someone afterwards doesn’t reverse something that has already happened. We need to design things such that the injury doesn’t occur in the first place.

    Much of road use by runners and cyclists here is for recreation. Seems like we could re direct that to somewhere else. Make designated bike paths and auto routes.

    • We do need better design. No doubt about that. But enforcement and prosecution can also change attitudes. That can be a significant factor.

      And maybe we should get back to road use by cyclists, runners, walkers, wheelchair rollers, skateboards and who knows who else as not just recreation but a normal means of travel. The correlation between the lack of kids walking to school (or anywhere else) these days and our epidemic of childhood obesity would appear to have some caustive elements. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7096559/

      And children don’t even play outside anymore because most parents consider the streets on which I and friends played as kids too unsafe for their kids. It’s nice to think about designated bike paths and author routes, but we ought to be able to make neighborhoods safe enough that mommy and daddy feel comfortable letting Johnny ride his bike to friend Jimmy’s place.

      And that includes putting safe crossings in major roadways. Ever try crossing Rabbit Creek Road or O’Malley on a bike or on foot? There is no protected place to cross the former, and it’s almost a mile between the controlled intersections at Lake Otis and Birch on the latter. Try crossing at Elmore on a busy day. You can be there a long time before you get a break in the traffic, and my experience is that almost none of the oncoming traffic is going to slow down because they see you crossing the road.

      Hope you don’t slip.

      The poor, dead young man on Abbott had better options than most. He should have gone out of his way to use the walkway to the east, but I’d expect he thought he could beat it across and misjudged the traffic. He probably overlooked the fact that the traffic coming downhill into the dip east of Service High almost always accelerates because that’s what Anchorage drivers do when the road goes downhill.

      Over the years, I’ve seen an unbelievable number of winter pileups on Rabbit Creek because of people accelerating over the hill at Elmore and then into a car that has previously skidded partially into the ditch. And I’ve more than once come close to being rear-ended as “punishment” for slowing down to 30 mph, or sometimes even less, when approaching that drop when the road was extremely slippery.

      Maybe we do need to do more to “legislate ability.” A lot of people who obtain licenses to drive are sadly lacking in skill. And yet we treat those licenses as a “right,” not the privilege that they are.

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