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Optimizing for cars

Vox recently profiled what they are calling the deadliest road in America — a certain section of US-19 running along the Gulf Coast of Florida. It is generally an 8-lane road — 9 at most intersections — and so as you might expect, it is place that was designed for cars.

From 2017 to 2022, US-19 saw 34 pedestrian fatalities involving a car for every 100 miles. Indeed, this stat makes it the deadliest highway in the state of Florida for people on foot.

The other telling stat for me is the road’s crosswalk spacing. This is a place that is lined with restaurants, hotels, and many other commercial uses, and yet the crosswalks are sometimes spaced miles apart.

This kind of street scale is mind boggling for pedestrians. No one in their right mind is going to go out of their way a mile or two just to cross a road, and so it’s no wonder that people are jaywalking and that too many people are getting hit.

I know that our tendency is to try and solve these problems with things like flashing lights, speed radars, and orange flags that people can unceremoniously waive as they cross the street. But at the end of the day, this is an urban design problem.

Spaces that are optimized for cars are, by definition, not optimized for pedestrians. The choice is ours.

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