Regardless of how you get around, at some point, you’re a pedestrian, which includes those using ambulatory devices. Walking isn’t just fundamental to being bipedal, it must be a critical way we address Climate Change. Active Transportation (walking and bicycling) can dramatically reduce the transportation sector’s greenhouse gas emissions. Especially if you move to a place where you can walk to most of the places you need and want to go.
According to the EPA, “transportation accounted for the largest portion (28%) of total U.S. GHG emissions in 2016.” But, despite decades of efforts by countless concerned citizens, pedestrians are continually being slaughtered by our vehicular transportation system. We won’t significantly reduce our greenhouse gases until we stop killing ourselves when we go for a walk.
Being able to walk safely in Rochester is a focus of our City, county, and state governments. But their efforts are not enough.
Pedestrians Dying at Highest Rate in 30 Years The number of pedestrians killed on U.S. roads in 2018 hit the highest record in nearly three decades. Based on data during the first half of 2018 by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), its projected 6,227 pedestrians died. That number is up 4 percent from 2017, marking the highest recorded number since 1990. "The alarm bells continue to sound on this issue; it’s clear we need to fortify our collective efforts to protect pedestrians and reverse the trend,” said GHSA Executive Director, Jonathan Adkins (March 4, 2019) Spectrum News Rochester [more on Transportation in our area]
Those of us who walk as our primary transportation option know that despite the City’s best efforts there are many challenges for us pedestrians: Too many times we must walk (or wheelchair) around improperly placed recyclables that block our sidewalks; too often our sidewalks are used as temporary parking for vehicles, lawn waste, and construction materials; and, too often our sidewalks are filled with snow and lined with ice. Even though the City plows our sidewalks in the winter (Buffalo doesn’t, and Syracuse is just starting up, using Rochester as a model) our sidewalks are unpassable to many. Remember those using ambulatory devices are trapped or are forced out into traffic if our sidewalks are not clear.
So, even though walking can help us alleviate Climate Change, we continue to kill ourselves in appalling numbers when we morph from drivers to walkers and bicyclists:
Why US cities are becoming more dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians As cities strive to improve the quality of life for their residents, many are working to promote walking and biking. Such policies make sense, since they can, in the long run, lead to less traffic, cleaner air and healthier people. But the results aren’t all positive, especially in the short to medium term. In Washington D.C., for example, traffic fatalities as a whole declined in 2018 compared to the year before, but the number of pedestrian and bicyclist deaths increased by 20 percent. Pedestrian deaths also have risen in New York, and pedestrian and cycling fatalities have increased in Los Angeles in the past several years. Across the nation, cyclist fatalities have increased by 25 percent since 2010 and pedestrian deaths have risen by a staggering 45 percent. More people are being killed because cities are encouraging residents to walk and bike, but their roads are still dominated by fast-moving vehicular traffic. As my research has shown, this shifting mix can be deadly. (February 20, 2019) The Conversation [more on Transportation in our area]
What is the answer? I don’t know, but I do know that just accepting pedestrian deaths and Climate Change as inevitable are immoral and unsustainable. As mentioned above many communities are adopting a policy that attempts to get the number of pedestrian deaths down to zero. Rochester should join.
“The Vision Zero Network is a collaborative campaign aimed at building the momentum and advancing this game-changing shift toward safe, healthy, equitable mobility for all. The Network brings together local leaders in health, traffic engineering, police enforcement, policy and advocacy to develop and share strategies, policies and practices that make Vision Zero a reality.” (the Vision Zero Network)
To get involved and bring a sane attitude towards our transportation system locally, join this very effective group:
Reconnect Rochester is a 501(c)3, non-profit organization working to build a more sustainable transportation network for the greater Rochester community.
Remember, we keep talking about Climate Change and that we need to get our greenhouse gas emission down, but we don’t. “Half of all emissions produced from fossil fuels have come in the last 30 years.” (David Wallace Wells) That is, ever since we knew Climate Change was a major problem we’ve acted in the worse possible way to put off this disaster.