Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for August 8th, 2007

Road kill

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Why are we so worried about terrorism when so many more people are dying on our highways?
By Gregg Easterbrook L.A. Times

August 5, 2007

Suppose 245,000 Americans had died in terrorist attacks since Sept. 11, 2001. The United States would be beside itself, utterly gripped by a sense of national emergency. Political leaders would speak of nothing else, the United States military would stand at maximum readiness, and the White House would vow not to rest until the danger to Americans had been utterly eradicated.

Yet 245,000 Americans have died because of one specific threat since 9/11, and no one seems to care. While the tragedy of 3,000 lives lost on 9/11 has justified two wars, in which thousands of U.S. soldiers made the ultimate sacrifice, the tragedy of 245,000 lives lost in traffic accidents on the nation’s roads during the same period has justified . . . pretty much no response at all. Terrorism is on the front page day in and day out, but the media rarely even mention road deaths. A few days ago, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that 42,642 Americans died in traffic in 2006. Did you hear this reported anywhere?

This phenomenon is not just American, it is global. Traffic deaths are the fastest-rising cause of death in the world. Yet you’ve heard far more about H5N1 avian influenza, which has killed 192 people worldwide since being detected five years ago, than about the 6 million people who have died in traffic accidents in the same period. Last year alone, 1.2 million people were killed on the world’s roads, versus about 100,000 dead as a result of combat. The last decade is believed to be the first time in history that roads posed a greater danger to human beings than fighting (which is partly a reflection of the decline of war).

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Written by Stephen Rees

August 8, 2007 at 12:46 pm

Posted in Road safety

Granville strip closure curbs violence

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The Province

Vancouver police say shutting down a four-block stretch of Granville Street on Friday and Sunday nights transformed the booze-fuelled boulevard into a long-weekend “love-in.”

Const. Tim Fanning said the “test-run” street closure in the entertainment district and an injection of additional officers resulted in just one reported fight and one partier arrested for being drunk in public on Friday night.

Police working the strip Sunday had nothing to report.

“That’s unheard of on a long weekend,” Fanning said. “The patrons down there loved it. It was like a big love-in.”

I spent years listening to the owners of the entertainment strip – especially Blaine Culling – telling me why the Granville Mall had to be opened up to cars. Since I was an employee of Translink (and earlier BC Transit) at the time I could not reply in the way my instincts told me was true but not wise.

Even then it was apparent that the length that had been closed to traffic was more succesful than the one left open – and that was before the over expansion of licensed premises in the name of “entertainment”.

Obviously wider sidewalks cope better with crowds – especially when a significant number of the occupants are under the influence.

Equally obviously, in a city where land use is tightly controlled, the over concentration of certain activities into a small area is not going to produce a great city – or even one that actually works very well. Cities are, of their very nature, heterogeneous places and the planners instinct and training to sort things out into neat “zones” has been a disaster. Mixed land use seems to be working very well where it has been tried – or where it struggles to survive under the baleful glare of the developers and bureaucrats who cannot wait to rationalize it.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 8, 2007 at 8:57 am