Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Death By Urban Planning

Apparently, another jogger has been killed in Westlake Village by some speeding motorist. It still amuses me that people are shocked by this phenomenon.

When you build a lightly-used street with three, wide lanes (which can be driven comfortably and fairly easily at around 80 mph, I've tried) and then give it a speed-limit of 40, chances are people aren't gonna go 40. When a road is built to be driven at a certain speed, then it makes sense that people will go as close as they can to that speed, no matter what the posted signs say.

Westlake Boulevard was built so that you can talk on the phone, have a bite to eat, and still manage around 50 with relative ease, and no matter what the city tries to do to stop people from doing all of those things, it will fail. The fact is that the street was built so that even the most reckless motorist would be safe. By doing this, of course, the engineers decided to screw the pedestrian (who are generally housewives on morning jogs) and endanger anyone who walks on that street. The street was built for cars exclusively, and any pedestrian is breaking the street's inherent rules by attempting to use it.

Of course, people shouldn't drive recklessly, but the point is that shitty, automobile-oriented engineering enables people to engage in behaviors they wouldn't otherwise consider. Like going 80 on a city street just to write about it in some blog.

Update: Westlake Village has announced a campaign for pedestrian safety in the city. However, the campaign's tilt is towards trying to inform pedestrians in what areas they should walk when there are no sidewalks (i.e. in the direction of oncoming traffic), a completely absurd proposition in a city wealthy enough to just install the damn sidewalks that would solve the problem. The city, apparently, has enough money for gorgeous new signs proclaiming "Westlake Village" to visitors, but not enough money to make actual residents safe when they want to go for a walk. Gotta love those city council members...