The Chainlink

Why do American cities waste so much space on cars?

As coronavirus lockdowns crept across the globe this winter and spring, an unusual sound fell over the world’s metropolises: the hush of streets that were suddenly, blessedly free of cars. City dwellers reported hearing bird song, wind and the rustling of leaves. (Along with, in New York City, the intermittent screams of sirens).

You could smell the absence of cars, too. From New York to Los Angeles to New Delhi, air pollution plummeted, and the soupy, exhaust-choked haze over the world’s dirtiest cities lifted to reveal brilliant blue skies.

Cars took a break from killing people, too. About 10 pedestrians die on New York City’s streets in an ordinary month. Under lockdown, the city went a record two months without a single pedestrian fatality. In California, vehicle collisions plummeted 50 percent, reducing accidents resulting in injuries or death by about 6,000 per month.

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Well for starters, there were fewer pedestrians in the first place for 1 terrible reason.  For that and other reasons, I really can't abide by the analysis and opinion in that column.  All while mentioning the virus, it's one of the most naive misses of context we're going to see on any issue out of the NYTimes or anywhere.  

All deaths and injuries are of importance regardless of the cause. Imagine if that author showed up after a tornado destroyed a town like Joplin Missouri and suggested how great it is that we saw a drop in traffic-related accidents following the 1000 or so injuries there.  Anyone suggesting that essentially as that author did takes themselves out of the game in terms of being a serious or credible representative of public safety ideas, or how to effectively making transportation changes at scale from one traffic mode to another.  

For context:

What we're talking about here is a tragedy on a global pandemic scale, and thereby not a model nor means for the future to be welcomed nor celebrated.  Commuting, walking, biking, transit, in fact, living - the whole human experience -  has been hampered substantially.


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