– Mark E. Smith

Pedestrians keep getting run over by cars here. Everyone acts like it’s the pedestrians’ fault. The intelligentsia are eager to propose any “solution” that doesn’t involve admitting that cars are lethal when they strike human bodies but not vice-versa. One fashionable option is shared streets, in which all users in all vehicles (or in none) share the same road. In theory, everybody is so paranoid of running into somebody else that all users act extra-careful.

The latest proponent of this road design is the Toronto Star, which quotes all the usual suspects about how well shared streets work in the Netherlands. (Beyond design and typography, this is not a country I want to import ideas from.) The Star’s reporter, Debra Black, offers every cutesty synonym she can find for these shared streets – naked streets (hed: “How streets look good naked”), woonerfs, home zones.

I don’t know how these abominations are tolerated in countries that are allegedly constitutional democracies, like Holland and Britain. A shared street without a sidewalk is lethally dangerous to a blind person. With no sidewalk edge and with cars, bicycles, and skaters surrounding and attacking you at all angles, you have no way of telling where you’re going and you’ll be the first one flat on your face on the pavement.

And indeed since proponents always want to gild the lily, and also have a habit of associating pedestrian “friendliness” with Dickensian street architecture, shared streets tend to be paved with cobblestones. Always enjoyable to trundle across in your wheelchair. (For “enjoyable,” read “impossible.”)

Say No to Shared Streets poster Shared streets are already a known failure in the U.K. (“Say No to Shared Streets”) and should be abolished everywhere. Since proponents naturally consider a sidewalk alongside a shared street, which blind people and wheelies could easily use, to be a repudiation of the very concept, there isn’t room for compromise here.

We already live in a town that had to be threatened with a human-rights complaint just to install off-the-shelf audible crosswalk indicators. The stakes are a bit higher here, I think. It might prove embarrassing if troupes of activists used ADAPT-style tactics and, say, lay down with their guide dogs across a shared street on its first day of operation.

I’m not holding my breath. It’s just cheaper to kill off a few blind people. Bowmanville already did that with one lady in a wheelchair, who was killed at a dangerous intersection she had complained about many times, so I put nothing past anybody.

One dead cripple can ruin your whole day, but fashionable city-boosters seem to think disabled people are expendable.

I asked Dylan Reid of the Pedestrian Committee (also of Spacing; four Spacers are on the committee) if he agreed that a shared street without a sidewalk is a threat to blind people, but, true to Spacing form, he refused to respond. I wrote to Debra Black, who also ignored me.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2010.01.27 15:38. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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