Stepping Out

So you’ve decided you want to get your steps in outdoors, you can no longer afford your car (or you’ve never had one), or your bike’s in the shop. Whatever the reason, you’re ready to step out on foot. Good news! If you’re a human, you were built for this. Chances are you already own some footwear and have spent time in a yard, at a park, or on sidewalks. So this should come naturally. The challenge comes when mixing it up with automobiles. For these occasions, we offer some suggestions.

10 Tips for Crossing the Street

  1. It’s best not to cross the street in the United States, but if you must cross there, cross in a northern state rather than the Sun Belt, where pedestrian deaths as a percentage of walking trips are consistently higher.
  2. Cross the street while White. Crossing while Black increases your chances for being killed by 72%.
  3. Cross while under age 75. Under 50 is preferable. If you must cross the street while older, find an intersection with a longer crossing signal.
  4. Choose “complete streets,” designed to accommodate bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit users rather than just drivers.
  5. Cross 100 years ago, before automobiles began crowding the streets and the notion of “jaywalking” was invented.
  6. There’s safety in numbers, so cross with a group. Join a Safe Route to Schools walking school bus or a charity run or walk. (This may require some advance scheduling.)
  7. Cross in a higher-income area and choose a neighborhood built prior to the 1950s, where blocks are shorter and streets are narrower (as long as they haven’t been “improved” by a state Department of Transportation).
  8. Cross a street with lower average vehicle speeds. Nine out of 10 pedestrians survive a crash with a vehicle going 20 mph, 5 out of 10 when hit at 30 mph, and only 1 in 10 at 40 mph or higher.
  9. If you must get hit by a vehicle, be hit by a sedan rather than a truck or an SUV, which are 2 to 3 times more likely to kill you.
  10. Cross in a location where drivers aren’t texting.

Fun fact: Between 2008 and 2017, 49,340 people were killed while travelling by foot in the United States.
See “Dangerous by Design” by Smart Growth America for more numbers and insight.

—Bridget C. Brown

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Automobilus runoverus

A piece from several years ago that I recently revised.

Automobilus runoverus

An invasive species has taken hold in Earth’s northern and western hemispheres and is rapidly increasing in the southern and eastern.

The creatures race through Homo sapiens settlements in herds, scooping up large numbers of them and forcing others out of their way. Eventually they come to temporary rest, occupying spaces that the H. sapiens build for them.

Their preferred habitat, however, is on the edges of the settlements, where they burrow into and occupy large portions of sapiens homes.

The creatures travel rapidly on narrow rollers that slowly wear away and are shed and replaced. The discarded limbs are foul smelling and serve as breeding grounds for insects, but dirty the water when buried and the air when burned, so the sapiens invent new uses for them, such as playground equipment for their offspring.

The creature’s preferred diet is comprised of decomposed plant and animal matter, cured for millions of years underground and extracted at great cost and labor for them by the sapiens. They’ve also, however, been known to consume french fry grease, corn liquor, and juice from electric fuel cells.

They don’t hibernate in the winter, but do sometimes slow down and increase their intake of salt. Some grow large shovel-like snouts that they use to remove snow from their paths. The paths are made of asphalt and concrete, byproducts of their preferred diet that they shit in wide strips. The offal hardens and becomes impenetrable, creating problems for the soil and waterways needed by the sapiens to grow their own food.

The creatures also pass a variety of gases—some that change the weather and others that cause the sapiens to choke.

If the species continues to reproduce as rapidly as it has, it’s unclear where they’ll go and if it will be possible to bring the sapiens with them.

—Bridget C. Brown

How’d we get here?

When automobiles were first hitting the streets (and pedestrians) 100 years ago, they weren’t considered “normal” traffic or catered to. The auto industry had to work hard to reshape laws and landscape to their liking, as documented by Peter Norton in Fighting Traffic.

But here we are. Do we continue rolling out the asphalt carpet for the next 100 years, or do we design and support better options?