Last year was the deadliest year for pedestrians, people on bikes, and other vulnerable street users in nearly three decades.
Even while fewer people are dying behind the wheel, people who walk, ride bikes or scooters, or otherwise get around outside of cars, are dying in traffic incidents at rates not seen since 1990 — and the problem is particularly acute in our cities, according to a report released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last month.
In the U.S., a pedestrian dies in a traffic incident nearly every 90 minutes, and lower-income neighborhoods, where investment in making streets safer for people has historically been lacking, are disproportionately affected.
It’s in this grim context that people around the world will gather for World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims this Sunday, November 17, to remember their loved ones and to remind those in power that everyone, no matter their mode of transportation or the neighborhood in which they live, deserves to arrive at their destination safely.
One of the main culprits is street design. Roadways, especially in the U.S., over the last century have been given almost entirely over to moving cars quickly — at the expense of all other considerations, especially the safety of all other people on our streets. Overly wide streets, inadequate or sometimes absent sidewalks, lack of crossing and poor lighting are just some of the factors that contribute to dangerous streets. Unsurprisingly, designing streets for cars leads to too many cars on the road, which in turn makes it less safe for anyone not in a car. Designing safer streets and reducing the number of cars on the road are mutually reinforcing goals that we must prioritize to create more livable communities.
“Together, we will memorialize those who’ve been killed and injured in our local neighborhoods and we will call on our national leaders (and those who want to be) to #stopthesilence on #trafficviolence,” Transportation Alternatives, one of the nation’s largest safe and sustainable streets advocacy organizations, wrote on their website advertising their scheduled event.
Denver will hold a candlelight vigil. There will be a procession and ceremony in D.C. At San Francisco City Hall, there will be a gathering and a march. Chicago will commemorate the day on Monday with a memorial to those who have died in traffic incidents. This is by no means a comprehensive list. A quick search of #WDoR2019 on Twitter will lead you to find plenty of other events.
These events are opportunities to plug into organizations doing the hard work of making our streets safer, a goal Spin shares.
“Changing a city takes extraordinary commitment and effort over many years. Our present streets are, after all, the product of a full century’s worth of work. So it’s unfair to expect cities to shoulder this burden alone,” Beaudry Kock, Head of Policy Initiatives at Spin, wrote in a recent op-ed published in the San Francisco Chronicle. “The private sector — including our company — can and should do its part. From supporting tactical urbanism initiatives so communities are able to move faster in rolling out safety improvements, to supporting advocates as they make the case for change, our industry is ready with resources, staff and energy to transform our streets.”
One way we aim to help is through providing data to community partners with the Mobility Data for Safer Streets initiative. Through this initiative, we hope to provide five advocacy organizations with the data and resources they need to advocate for a specific street transformation project over the course of next year.
Another way we can help is through partnering for demonstration projects like the intersection improvements we created with Better Block and community members in Salt Lake City. Or the parklet competition we co-sponsored in Downtown Denver, in partnership with the Better Block Foundation and a number of local community organizations, to demonstrate safer and more people-oriented uses for our streets.
But there are hundreds of organizations fighting for safer streets everyday and pushing projects that could always use extra support.
In San Francisco, the Valenica Street bikeway is one such project. Want to get involved? Check out the SF Bicycle Coalition here.
In Portland, improvements to Hawthorne Boulevard, a bustling thoroughfare, could use an extra nudge. There, the Streets Trust is an organization that works for safer streets.
Want to help Nashville develop its Core Bike Lane network plan? Check out Walk Bike Nashville’s Core Bike Lane support petition here.
The Washington Area Bicycle Coalition has a long list of safe streets projects for which they are fighting, including D.C.’s Florida Ave NE multimodal streetscape. And you can plug into Greater Greater Washington’s coverage of and advocacy for the K Street Transitway.
Everyone has the right to move through their streets safely and comfortably. But that can only happen if we reshape our streets to put people — not cars — first. It’s our responsibility to help make that future — a people-centered future — a reality.