On the Risks and Responsbilities of Living (in Cities)

Samuel Staley's picture
Blogger

Last summer, most of the nation was justifiably outraged when Raquel Nelson was convicted of vehicular homicide because her four-year old son stepped off a median into oncoming traffic and was killed. Common sense alone should have kept this case from going to trial, but I believe this case should have raised a bigger and more encompassing issue for planners and a question of social ethics: What is the responsibility we take as individuals for the choices we make living in an urban environment?

Let me be quite clear that I'm not heaping blame on Raquel Nelson. As a parent, I've been in more than one situation similar to Ms. Nelson's where one mistake could have ended in tragedy (and I've actually stepped in to prevent similar tragedies). And also let me be clear that from what I know about the case (which is admittently limited to newspaper articles), I believe Ms. Nelson will bear more than her share of punishment for her responsibility for the incident, regardless of the legal outcome of the case.

Rather, I'm taking issue with some commentors from within the planning community who used the incident to blame urban design, transit operators, land-use regulators, traffic engineers, and others. David Goldberg, writing in the Washington Post (August 4, 2011), captured much of the outrage when he observed:

"Nelson was found guilty of killing her son by crossing the road in the "wrong" place. But what about the highway designers, traffic engineers, transit planners and land-use regulators who placed a bus stop across from apartments but made no provision whatsoever for a safe crossing? Those who ignored the fact that pedestrians always take the shortest possible route but somehow expected them to walk six-tenths of a mile out of their way to cross the street? Those who designed this road - which they allowed to be flanked by apartments and houses - for speeds of 50 mph and more? And those who designed the entire landscape to be hostile to people trying to get to work or carrying groceries despite having no access to a car? Are they not culpable?"

Another blogger in the planning community titled her commentary simply: When Design Kills.

I believe these criticisms are misplaced, largely because they presume that this particular incident could have been foreseen and prevented. This is a classic case of confusing what statisticians call "point probability" with "group probability." We can make predictions about general trends from patterns of data--and we use those to inform public policy and planning--but that doesn't mean we can predict when, where, and how certain incidents will occur. In the case of Raquel Nelson, better design could have improved the likelihood this accident wouldn't have occurred, but it couldn't have eliminated the possibility. Nor could anyone have stated with reasonable certainty that better planning and decign would have prevented the death. So, the short answer to David Goldberg's question is "no," the engineers, urban designers, builiders, etc. were not culpable in this death. Similar incidents could happen (and have happened) in crosswalks.

Living in an urban environment exposes us to risks and trade-offs on a daily basis. It's not like Ms. Nelson didn't have alternatives available to her. She could have chosen to walk with her children to the cross walk a half mile down the road; should could have chosen to live in another building on a road with less traffic; she could have chosen to take a taxi for the trip to the store to buy birthday presents for her children; she could have asked the other adults cross the street at the same time to help her with her children. The list of alternatives is long, if not endless.

Moreover, from the news reports, it's not at all clear that Ms. Nelson didn't take reasonable precautions even though she was jaywalking with several small children. Ultimately, she made a decision about the relative risks of the crossing the street at that particular moment with multiple children in tow. Perhaps she had done this successfully before. It's even possible that, like most of us, she had accomplished this task repeatedly before. These are the kinds of decisions that denizens of urban environments face on a daily basis. And the ugly truth is sometimes we're wrong, tragically wrong.

But what would a city be like without risk? Or uncertainty? In fact, one could argue that large, diverse, vibrant, urban places carry far greater everyday risks (including the likelihood of being hit in traffic, or by a bus, or by a train) because they are urban. Choice is fundamental to human existence, and one of the great virtues of cities is exposure to the wider ranges of opportunities and choices they provide. Choices also imply reponsibility for making them. Those risks and responsibilities should be acknowledged as an implicit component of urban life. Indeed, don't many planners criticize so-called sprawl because those communities attempt to purge all the diversity, risk, and vibrancy inherent in cities in the pursuit of safety, comfort, and banality?

And the world is never perfect. As planners we need to refrain from the trap of measuring the sometimes ugly realities of real life against the impossible standard of an ideal. Certainly, as transportation planners, we have an obligation and duty to design transit networks to maximize public safety and mobility. That likely includes making sure transit stops and locations are located properly (and it's not clear this was not the case in Marietta without knowing more details about travel patterns and ridership). As land-use planners (public and private) we need to consider the public health and safety demensions of projects. As developers, we need to consider safety and efficiency in designing access to our projects. But, this doesn't necessarily mean that we are culpable in accidents that lead to human tragedies. These duties and responsibilities, however, don't and can't include eliminating risk.

Design doesn't kill. It can create (or reduce) hurdles and barriers, and in the process alter our human calculations of risk and uncertainty, but it doesn't kill. In the end, we are left with individuals making decisions, the vast majority of which work out well, but occassionally end up in tragedy. As in Ms. Nelson's case, the consequences  of making the wrong decision, on a particular day, at a particular moment, will be indelible.  We don't necessarily need a prosecutor, or jury, or judge to recognize that.

Sam Staley is Associate Director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University in Tallahassee.

Comments

Comments

An analogy

Here's a completely car-based analogy. Suppose a nice, suburban subdivision exits onto a major road. Traffic engineers have decided that it's more important to move traffic quickly on the major road than provide access to these residents, so they get a green light every 45 minutes. Before long, most residents decide to wait for a break in traffic and risk running the red light. Eventually, someone is killed doing this.

What alternatives do these residents have? They could dutifully wait everyday. They could move to another neighborhood. They could simply keep running the lights, accepting the risks inherent to a suburban lifestyle. Or officials could adjust their priorities and give these residents reasonable wait times at the light.

Strange Reasoning

"We can make predictions about general trends from patterns of data--and we use those to inform public policy and planning--but that doesn't mean we can predict when, where, and how certain incidents will occur. In the case of Raquel Nelson, better design could have improved the likelihood this accident wouldn't have occurred, but it couldn't have eliminated the possibility. ... the engineers, urban designers, builiders, etc. were not culpable in this death."

This means that the designers of this road were able to make predictions of the "general trend" toward more accidents that their design caused. In other words, they were able to predict that the design would cause more pedestrian injuries and deaths generally, though they couldn't predict this one. Doesn't it follow that they are culpable for the increased number of pedestrian injuries and deaths that they caused?

To give another analogy, imagine that a contractor uses inferior concrete to build a small bridge, that the bridge collapses when John Smith is driving a heavy truck over it, and John Smith dies.

Sam Staley then argues that the contractor is not culpable, because the contractor could have predicted that the bridge would collapse when someone was driving a heavy truck over it, and someone would die, but he could not predict that John Smith would be the one who would die. Criticisms of the contractor "are misplaced, largely because they presume that this particular incident could have been foreseen and prevented. This is a classic case of confusing what statisticians call 'point probability' with 'group probability.'"

It is very strange reasoning.

Charles Siegel

"Like" button

I wish there was a "Like" button in the comments section.

In any case, +1 to Charles. This is the kind of reasoning behind the nomenclature of traffic "accidents" which implies no faulty party (or equally faulty parties).

Let's flip the question at hand. How about an article on "the risks and responsibilities of driving a two-ton vehicle at speeds of 50mph or more?" Humans make mistakes, regardless of driver vs. pedestrian. Rather than expect the pedestrian to deal with an accepted reality of speeding cars that could kill them, perhaps drivers should deal with an accepted reality that there may be unexpected pedestrians to be aware of. Surely those safely behind the wheel should be held to a higher standard than the more vulnerable pedestrians. The fact that, by default, we prioritize speed and power over vulnerability says something deeply disturbing about the lack of equity in our transportation system.

Finally, I find it to be in astonishingly poor taste to LIST the alternative "choices" Ms. Nelson could have made that day. A list, I might add, of suggestions that range from ignorant (assuming she could afford a taxi) to ludicrous (someone has to live in that building and cross that street; if not Ms. Nelson, someone else).

Again, why place the burden of predictability on the choices of the person trapped in a situation she surely knows is dangerous, rather than the choices of the engineers and planners who created the dangerous situation?

Finally, back on topic.

It would be nice to get rid of the long string of unrelated political commentary, but the forum did arrive back on topic. I picked up on an article where MIT researchers have figured out how to determine which motorists will run a red light. Maybe in a few decades we can revisit the logic behind this article and the ability to predict whether a given pedestrian will be run over by a motorist on a particular stretch of road.

http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2011/driving-algorithm-1130.html

Planner Keith

Auto-dependent apologist.

It is very strange reasoning.

Not if you look at it as an apologia for auto-dependency. As soon as you see it that way, the fallacious reasoning looks like a familiar pattern and you can dismiss the argumentation.

Best,

D

Auto dependancy has SUCH bad press.......

Any thorough "apologia for auto-dependency" would have to include the many negative effects left behind by "economic development" of which auto dependency is an essential part.

The former USSR was not granted ANY advantage by its exclusively transit-oriented urban development, and "auto dependent development" is actually inseparable from many of the advantages the USSR did NOT attain, in spite of these advantages being taken for granted as "all just part of economic development".

Various nations with policies on urban form and transport that fall somewhere between the extremes, also fall into reasonably predictable patterns of "limits" to their economic and socio-economic achievement. Japan, for example, hit the limits available to its particular form in the late 1980's. Britain has been hitting similar limits for decades, and is probably going down for the last time this time. Thatcher delayed the inevitable for another 20 to 30 years, but as long as Britain has rigid urban growth boundaries, the pain from free market reforms in the REST of the economy, is inflicted mostly on low income earners.

Auto Dependency and Economic Development

"economic development" of which auto dependency is an essential part.

To bring yourself back to reality, you might look at the Netherlands and Denmark, both of which are not auto-dependent and both of which are more successful economically than the United States.

News flash: Economists theorize that the former USSR failed because of the inefficiencies of its command-and-control economy, not because of its lack of auto-dependency.

Charles Siegel

Todd Litman's picture
Blogger

Automobile Travel And Economic Development

Several studies indicate that beyond an optimal level, increased vehicle travel reduces economic productivity. In fact, comparing U.S. cities, per capita GDP tends to decline with per capita annual VMT and increases with development density and per capita public transit travel. This probably reflects a combination of agglomeration efficiencies of more compact development, resource cost savings from more efficient transport (reduced costs to governments of providing roads, reduced costs to businesses of providing parking, and reduced costs to consumers of owning and operating automobiles), and the economic benefits of reduced need to import fuel from outside a region.

Described differently, economically optimal vehicle travel is the amount that consumers would choose in an efficient transport market that offered good transport options (good walking and cycling conditions, good public transit services, good telecommunications, etc.), efficient transport pricing (cost-based pricing of roads and parking facilities, distance-based insurance and registration fees, relatively high fuel prices), and neutral public policies related to transport and land use development (i.e., no subsidies for automobile travel over other modes and sprawl over other more compact development). Wealthy countries that have such policies (Japan, South Korea, Northern Europe) tend to have about half the per capita vehilce travel as in North America.

For information see:

Marlon G. Boarnet and Andrew F. Haughwout (2000), "Do Highways Matter? Evidence and Policy Implications of Highways’ Influence on Metropolitan Development," Brooking Institute (www.brookings.edu); at www.brookings.edu/ES/urban/boarnet.PDF.

Joe Cortright (2007), "Portland’s Green Dividend," CEOs for Cities (www.ceosforcities.org); at www.ceosforcities.org/internal/files/PGD%20FINAL.pdf.

Daniel J. Graham (2007), "Agglomeration Economies and Transport Investment," Discussion Paper No. 2007-11, Joint Transport Research Centre, OECD and International Transport Forum, at http://puck.sourceoecd.org/vl=9745622/cl=32/nw=1/rpsv/cgi-bin/wppdf?file....

Piyapong Jiwattanakulpaisarn, Robert B. Noland, Daniel J. Graham and John W. Polak (2009), “Highway Infrastructure And State-Level Employment: A Causal Spatial Analysis,” Papers in Regional Science, Volume 88 Number 1, pp. 133 – 159; at http://ideas.repec.org/a/eee/transa/v44y2010i4p265-280.html.

Chuck Kooshian and Steve Winkelman (2011), "Growing Wealthier: Smart Growth, Climate Change and Prosperity," Center for Clean Air Policy (www.ccap.org); at www.growingwealthier.info.

Todd Litman (2009), "Are Vehicle Travel Reduction Targets Justified? Evaluating Mobility Management Policy Objectives Such As Targets To Reduce VMT And Increase Use Of Alternative Modes," VTPI (www.vtpi.org); at www.vtpi.org/vmt_red.pdf.

Todd Litman (2010), "Evaluating Transportation Economic Development Impacts," VTPI (www.vtpi.org); at www.vtpi.org/econ_dev.pdf.

USDOT (2005), "Costs of U.S. Oil Dependence: 2005 Update," Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy (http://cta.ornl.gov); at http://cta.ornl.gov/cta/Publications/Reports/ORNL_TM2005_45.pdf.

Todd Alexander Litman
Victoria Transport Policy Institute
www.vtpi.org
facebook.com/todd.litman
"Efficiency - Equity - Clarity"

Optimal Vehicle Travel

"economically optimal vehicle travel is the amount that consumers would choose in an efficient transport market that offered good transport options (good walking and cycling conditions, good public transit services, good telecommunications, etc.), efficient transport pricing (cost-based pricing of roads and parking facilities, distance-based insurance and registration fees, relatively high fuel prices), and neutral public policies related to transport and land use development (i.e., no subsidies for automobile travel over other modes and sprawl over other more compact development)."

I would add: "and that charges a tax that internalizes the external costs of each form of transportation." I am sure Todd would agree.

Charles Siegel

Definitely, we could make EVERY mode more "fiscally responsible"

Yes, we could start by making Transit users pay their fair share.

http://www.cedelft.eu/publicatie/the_price_of_transport/181

And click on "Download Report UK" right in the middle of the page.

Results of Fiscal Responsibility

And if every group paid its fair share, the result would be far less automobile use, somewhat more transit use, far more bicycling and walking. And, of course, far less sprawl.

You persistently make the error of pointing at subsidies to public transit and ignoring the gross underfunding of bicycles and pedestrians.

Charles Siegel

Ideological "Fair" Share

You persistently make the error of pointing at subsidies to public transit and ignoring the gross underfunding of bicycles and pedestrians.

Indeed - we can end subsidized moochers by eliminating the HMID, oil subsidies, decreasing military role in oil acquisition, tolling local access roads, etc. *eye roll*

Best,

D

"Liberals" and their moral confusion

Oh, you are one of these people who think "the cost of oil" includes military actions to "invade countries with oil". Funny, I thought it was far cheaper to just buy it off corrupt dictators, but leftwing "liberals" seemed AT ONE TIME to have some hang-up about the "morality" of THAT. Christopher Hitchens is a rare example of a liberal whose position on corrupt dictators has been consistent throughout modern history. Condemn the purchase of oil from them, cheer their removal.

Michael Lewyn's picture
Blogger

Its not just buying them or invading them that costs money...

If you've bought them, you usually wind up spending money to protect them from their enemies (see, e.g., protecting Saudi Arabia, Kuwait etc.)

What a pity the world isn't perfect

So the only moral solution is really to go back to the trees and caves and let the French, Russians and Chinese buy all the resources and do all the "developing". Not that this actually does anything for the oppressed subjects of the Sauds or the Baathists, but I guess we and our kids can die young feeling warm and fuzzy.

Compelling.

So the only moral solution is really to go back to the trees and caves and let the French, Russians and Chinese buy all the resources and do all the "developing"

*eye roll*

Srsly?! _This_ is what you trot out?

Best,

D

Eye Roll

Poor Wodehouse spends so much time citing the literature to show how rational he is, and then he discredits himself with totally irrational statements like this one.

Anyone who wants to account for all the costs of our energy use, including the cost of wars to secure energy supplies, must want to "go back to the trees and caves." That is going to convince everyone, right?

Charles Siegel

From the template.

Charles, it is exactly what we would expect from adherents of a particular ideology.

Best,

D

Sense of humour helps

Ann Coulter was right, Liberals DO have no sense of humour. (Sigh).

More template.

Ann Coulter was right

*eye roll*

Srsly?! _This_ is what you trot out?

Best,

D

Ideological cognitive dissonance.

Oh, you are one of these people who think "the cost of oil" includes military actions to "invade countries with oil"

Apparently reality-based accounting methods and the PNAS are confused, too. Ah, well.

Some may prefer a turkey of an argument, but best wishes and enjoy your other turkey and the time with your family.

Best,

D

WHAT "error"?

WHAT "error"? Didn't you read that Dutch study I linked to?

I don't know why there is any doubt that Transit users absorb far more subsidies than road users. Transit users seldom contribute anything to the cost of their own "rolling stock", unlike motorists. And Transit has social costs too.

The analyses that you are relying on for your judgement are pure advocacy for Transit and against roads. That Dutch study I linked to is a rare example of a genuinely disparate analysis of costs and their coverage.

Bicycles and pedestrians are "underfunded"? I have happily ridden some 100,000 kms in my cycling career on roads that I paid far less towards than motorised vehicle operators do. And what on earth is wrong with the amount of "free" footpath space in every city in the first world today? On whatever grounds could you justify "footpath capacity expansion"? Do city property owners suffer from quantifiable constraint of the value of their site because of footpath congestion, or because of road congestion?

This Error

This error: You refuse to see the obvious point that subsidies to transportation generate more transportation, regardless of which mode is being subsidized.

Remove all the subsidies, and people would travel shorter distances, and they would rely much more on walking and bicycling (the modes that require the least subsidy).

If people traveled shorter distances, there would be less sprawl.

The question of whether the typical driver or the typical transit rider gets a larger subsidy is completely irrelevant. The fact remains that sprawl is a result of market-distorting subsidies to transportation.

Charles Siegel

I agree. Mobility allows "spread" but subsidies do speed it up.

Ah, good, I was indeed mistaken. I did not realise you were in favour of removing ALL subsidies to all forms of transport to reduce sprawl. Yes, indeed, governments never should have got involved in railways and roads and so on; the whole world would run much more efficiently if all "transport" including infrastructure for it was provided privately on a user pays basis, for profit.

I also agree that there would indeed be less sprawl under these conditions. I may differ from you in just HOW "compact" I think urban form would be as a result - but I do agree it would be more compact.

But the process of the democratisation of the ownership of private space would still have resulted in a steady spread of households and businesses away from the urban core of land, which tended to be owned by an incumbent class of property owners who extract maximum possible rents. So the urban economy finds a most productive equilibrium in a state of steady "spread", not in a state of a static urban footprint which increases the rate at which incomes are transferred to the rentier class. Karl Marx had this right - he just did not realise that mobility was the (as yet to be attained) solution, not the abolition of property.

ONE mode NEARLY isn't "subsidised", at least in Europe

I should also point out that that Dutch study finds that at least in Europe, the ONLY mode that NEARLY "covers its costs" is the private motor vehicle. None of the public transport modes remotely begin to cover their costs.

Several Studies show the opposite, too

"....Several studies indicate that beyond an optimal level, increased vehicle travel reduces economic productivity..."

And several OTHER studies show the exact opposite.

".....comparing U.S. cities, per capita GDP tends to decline with per capita annual VMT and increases with development density and per capita public transit travel. This probably reflects a combination of agglomeration efficiencies of more compact development, resource cost savings from more efficient transport...."

This assumes all the wrong things. The cities with high density and viable transit, merely happen to have a heritage of location, accidents of history, and type of employment that underlies high incomes and central location agglomerations. It is simply impossible for every city in the USA to be New York, because there is only so much wealth in a nation that can be blown on its finance sector and wide boys playing markets. You try to turn every city into New York, all you will do is kill the sectors of the economy that create the wealth that is funnelled into Manhattan and Washington via finance and taxation.

As for the constant insistence from a certain type of advocate that automobiles are "subsidised" and other transport modes need MORE subsidies to "level the playing field", the OPPOSITE is the case:

http://www.cedelft.eu/publicatie/the_price_of_transport/181

And click on "Download Report UK" right in the middle of the page.

Dear Charles, Where are the

Dear Charles,

Where are the comprehensive studies that prove that the USSR's heavily planned urban form and transport policy, happened to be advantages which were only negated by inefficiencies in every other area of their economy? Alain Bertaud's "The Costs of Utopia" is valuable analysis that leads me to realise that their urban form and transport policy was actually part of the whole failure. I am slowly drawing threads together from all the reading I am doing, to discover why.

Anthony Downs, reviewing Calthorpe's famous 1990's book on "Smart Growth", provides a valuable insight when he says that fixed guideway based transit has to have a radial form, so that urban form ends up with under-served "wedges" of land closer to the CBD than much of the radial development itself. This more-efficiently-located land WILL be utilised immediately automobile based development is allowed - yet utilising the wedges undermines the viability of the radial development itself. Utilising the wedges via concentric fixed guideways linked to the radial ones, also would undermine the viability of the whole system.

There is simply nothing to match, for economic efficiency, a means of transport that takes individuals from anywhere to anywhere within a region, AND that enables all new development to be done without rent-seekers maximising planning gain, as is inevitable with "T.O.D." or restrictive zoning. Less-known authors like Patrick Troy and Robert Fishman (and of course, Randal O'Toole) are absolutely right to insist that it is ONLY "automobile based development" that has allowed for the massive democratization of home ownership in the western world - yes, even in the Netherlands and Denmark.

I agree that the Netherlands and Denmark are economically successful, but there are significant differences that mean that it is not fair to compare them directly to the USA. I admire the Netherlands policy of compulsory acquisition of land to keep land prices low and stable regardless of what planners do; I regard this as justifiable given the Netherlands population density. The Netherlands also had a Empire for some centuries; furthermore it is a near-monoculture with a strong Protestant work ethic; and lastly, it has been shedding migrants for decades. The USA is unique among world economies, in that it successfully absorbs huge numbers of people from multiple cultures and grants them at least a modicum of social mobility that would have been absent in their country of origin. Texas today is still filling that role - criticised for its RELATIVELY "high" unemployment and RELATIVELY "high" government deficits and relatively "high" inequality - when it is flat out absorbing migrants of all sorts, and certain other States that are NOT, are in far a WORSE fiscal position. The unfortunate fact is that nations and States that absorb the spillover of humanity from nations and States that deprive the most of opportunity, always have a high proportion of their population that consists of recent spillover.

Negligence

You don't have to be able to "predict when, where, and how certain incidents will occur" to be found liable under American law.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negligence

Michael Lewyn's picture
Blogger

The USSR and sprawl

If the USSR's decline is due to the absence of cars, does that mean the U.S.'s financial collapse is due to automobile dependence? If we are going to tie every possible social problem to urban planning policy, two can play that game!

Auto Dependency and Economic Collapse

The difference is that:

-- There is no plausible reason for blaming the USSR's economic decline of absence of cars.

-- There are reasons for blaming America's economic problems on auto-dependency. Heavy dependency of imported oil harms our trade balance. High gas prices are a drag on consumer spending in the rest of the economy.

I think we will see that, when the economy begins to recover, gas prices will soar again, which will either stop or slow the recovery.

Charles Siegel

Automobility is the LAST thing to be relinquished

I presume you are referring to my post below.
I did say that there are numerous examples that fall between the 2 extremes, that seem to show some correlation between LACK of automobility and "auto dependent development" which happens to be the ONLY kind that maintains low, stable urban land prices; and limits to economic growth. I am sorry if no-one else on this forum can see this reality. The ability of William Leavitt type entrepreneurs to provide affordable new homes via free market competition, is the only thing that has ever kept urban land markets stable and affordable. Land taxes might work but no-one has tried them, in contrast to Leavittowns, which have been tried and have worked.
I firmly beleive that the USA would have no economic crisis at all, if it was not for the urban growth containment policies that led to house price bubbles everywhere they were enacted. Meanwhile, the States that always had low, stable urban land prices have far less of an economic crisis on their hands, and can fairly say that THEY are suffering fallout through no fault of their own, from the States that caused the crisis by blowing up the price of urban land.

http://texanomics.blogspot.com/

I find it ironic that "the costs of automobile dependence" can be alleged to be burdening an economy beyond manageable levels, when there are still several levels of automobile size, weight, and engine size able to be "traded off" by MORE drivers in that economy than any other economy in the world. What you call "automobile dependence" and I call "automobility" is "the baby"; the COST of automobility is "the bath water".

It is worth noting that even in the USSR's cities that were built as one huge T.O.D. and now have massive traffic jams all day, it is "automobility" that has gained market share in leaps and bounds since the collapse of communism.

On living in urban environments

Mr Staley certainly presents the perspective I'd expect from the average motorist... "Let's blame the pedestrian" for having to walk in a suburban environment where a simple street crossing requires pedestrians to walk a mile one way, cross three sides of an intersection (Florida loves to provide 3, but not 4 crosswalks), and walk a mile back to cross a street legally. I'll note that this is probably a suburban area, not urban, because there are very few truly urban environments in Florida.

Is Staley so insular that he can't see the logical outcome of streets designed to inhibit pedestrian mobility through barriers? The only possible outcomes are:

(a) The suburban pedestrian walks along a legal route and takes much longer to reach a destination than the illegal route requires (and this is already much longer than a comparable driving trip).

(b) The suburban pedestrian takes a risk and makes the trip along an "illegal" route.

(c) The suburban pedestrian gives up and buys a car, unless they can't afford one, in which they are stuck with choices A and B. They can take transit, but they still have to cross the street to get to the bus stop either to get to or from the bus using options A or B.

(d) I suppose there's an option D where they move to a walkable neighbourhood, but I'm not sure there is one in Florida (and certainly not one where people with modest incomes can live).

In contrast to Staley's comments, there are numerous studies linking design, traffic speed, and safety outcomes. While the victim's death was not foreseeable, it is very foreseeable that pedestrians will die when suburban environments have become more dense and when areas slide down the income scale - both situations are clearly associated with higher rates of walking, while suburban street designs can be linked to higher average speeds. There is culpability in design when goals for traffic speed and volume preclude access by any other road user and, as such, ignore the risk associated with a small group of people who have no choice but to take a risker trip.

Prepare for the AICP Exam

Join the thousands of students who have utilized the Planetizen AICP* Exam Preparation Class to prepare for the American Planning Association's AICP* exam.
Starting at $245
Planetizen Courses image ad

Planetizen Courses

Advance your career with subscription-based online courses tailored to the urban planning professional.
Starting at $16.95 a month
poster

A Short History of America

From comic book artist Robert Crumb, poster shows how the built environment has changed throughout the decades.
$14.95
Book cover of Insider's Guide to Careers in Urban Planning

So you want to be a planner...

Check out our behind the scenes look at 25 careers in the Urban Planning field
Starting at $14.95