A recent Post-Gazette article by Ed Blazina – Viewing Oakland through the windshield of a Port Authority bus driver – propagates the same car-centric worldview that’s bred acceptance of senseless death on American streets since the 1920’s. Despite the fact automobiles kill more than 90 people daily in the US – including Pittsburgh’s recent victims – its people on foot who “create the greatest hazard”, according a Port Authority bus driver.
Disregard the overwhelming number of heavy machines (cars) with non-professional drivers holding smart phones, speeding dangerously on Forbes and Fifth. Forget the Public Works Department, the Port Authority, and PennDOT who’ve thus far neglected – grossly – to create alternatives to driving through the busy corridor. Don’t blame the universities for failing to institute and enforce a slow school zone through Oakland, where thousands of people cross the streets during rush hour.
No, the problem – the “hazard” – is all those damn people. This is classic Orwellian Doublethink.
Omission and Emphasis
Blazina explains recent deaths on Pittsburgh’s streets from the “windshield” perspective:
Traffic through Oakland has been at the forefront since last month after a bicyclist was killed in a chain-reaction crash on Forbes Avenue and a Wilkinsburg couple died after getting off a bus near Petersen Events Center.
Missing here is the fact motor vehicles killed these people. Because of course, the threat is people walking and biking.
The same events recounted by others (emphasis added):
The death of cyclist Susan Hicks in Oakland on Oct. 23, crushed between two cars while she was properly waiting at a Forbes Avenue red light on her ride home from work…
Hicks was struck by a vehicle that had been hit by another car and pushed into a third vehicle as they waited in traffic at the intersection of Forbes Avenue and Bellefield Street.
Susan Hicks was riding home from work in Oakland when she was killed by driver [sic] at the corner of Forbes and Bellefield.
Henry Walker, 73, and Carol Christine Williamson, 68, killed after being hit by SUV [sic] and ran over by bus [sic]…
These victims were not killed by people wearing headphones or riding bicycles. Susan Hicks, Henry Walker, and Christine Williamson were killed by fast, heavy, powerful, clumsy machines.
Propagating the Windshield Perspective
In light of history, the following is absurd:
“Lights aren’t taken very seriously by pedestrians,” [the bus driver] said. “If they see a break in the action, they go.” …
Pedestrian signals, which show how much time a person has to cross the street, and fences to force pedestrians to use crosswalks have helped, the drivers say, but not enough. …
Mr. Bream said he favors stronger enforcement of jaywalking laws, which was the case when he lived in the Los Angeles area.
People walked all over city streets for thousands of years before heavy, fast machines became dominant. Traffic signals emerged to address conflicts created by heavy, fast machines. Why then is it surprising humans instinctively disregard electronic signs which “show how much time a person has to cross the street”, especially when the street is obviously clear?
We’ve instituted “fences to force pedestrians to use the crosswalks.” Why not zones of traffic calming and enforcement to force people driving cars to stop killing everyone?
Furthermore “Jaywalking” is a term invented in the 1920’s by the automobile industry. And in terms of street life and walkability, Los Angeles is not a place Pittsburgh should emulate.
And those people riding bicycles – two feet wide – who “create their own lane” between vehicles clogging the street. How scary it must be for motorists!
Forget about the fact each single-occupant car is 6 feet wide. Forget about the negligence of the City and PennDOT to allocate street space for people who’ve chosen to require less of it for equal purposes.
No. Speeding and stationary machines are the most important consideration. God forbid anyone would choose to become lighter, more narrow, travel the same average speed as cars, and “freely go” through Oakland.
In the end, if life in Oakland is threatened by the presence of people walking and biking, then Pittsburgh’s river trails, used exclusively by these worst-of-the-worst, are death zones.
If these perils of the traffic nightmare in Oakland make professional Port Authority bus drivers nervous, imagine what those conditions can do to regular motorists.
Blazina has it backwards. People driving motor vehicles – having the unique capacity to kill – ought to be nervous. They should be concerned about killing someone if they don’t slow down and pay attention.
Instead, the family, friends, and colleagues of Susan Hicks are paying for the gross negligence of those blocking an immediate reconfigure of Fifth and Forbes through Oakland.
We can thank Ed Blazina for feeding the windshield worldview that enables city, state, and university officials to sit on their bloody hands.