I wanted to like this bicycle and pedestrian resolution in the California Senate, which was introduced just in time to send a strong traffic safety message for this time of year when children return to school. I really did.
Senate Resolution 17, introduced last week Tuesday by Senators Noreen Evans from Santa Rosa and Mark DeSaulnier of Concord, mentions the thousands of children who are killed while on foot after they’re hit by a car. It mentions reports from Safe Routes to School National Partnership that most “accidents” are preventable “and would not have occurred had those involved made educated and informed decisions regarding safe behavior as pedestrians, bicyclists, skateboarders, and drivers of motor vehicles.” SR 17 mentions the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) vision of “Toward Zero Deaths, Every 1 Counts.” Hurray for that.
Cars kills children. So the solution recommended by DeSaulnier and Evans?
“Resolved, That the Senate encourages parents and teachers to ensure that children learn defensive walking … and learning the dangers of using any electronic device or headphones when walking….”
Defensive walking? What?
I am all for traffic safety education for children, especially for anyone who shares the road with other traffic. Cyclists should follow the rules of the road and obey the law, both because doing so is safer and because the victim can lose out in civil claims if he or she is found to be partially at fault in a collision. Children should be taught to look left-right-left when crossing the road. The only behavior I can control is my own, and safety is my responsibility.
But this resolution seems to place the entire duty of traffic safety on the victim. This is the result of 90 years of propaganda by the oil and car industry that demonized the pedestrian. Even the term “jaywalker” came about from a deliberate effort by automobile promoters to redefine streets as places where pedestrians do not belong. This 1940 ad from Shell blames “heedless, reckless pedestrians” for “Stop-and-Go” traffic and “needless accidents.”
Today, Volvo openly advocates road aggression and harassment against anybody who dares to walk in front of their S60 Sports Sedan. Most of you who saw the ad even thought it was ‘cute.’
We’ve all bought into the marketing message to the point that even ostensible pedestrian safety advocates such as Senators DeSaulnier and Evans call for professional training for children, for crying out loud. I don’t doubt that many reading this article believe that the Senate Resolution seems perfectly reasonable. What’s next? Helmets for kids walking to school? Safety vests for walking? Certificates and licenses for pedestrians? I already see people on night walks carrying mounting flashing lights to their pants and shirts. One of the hottest products introduced at the recent Outdoor Retailer Show was a running shoe with flashing headlights and tail lights.
Stanley Roberts shows us in this video what happens when pedestrians are trained to cower by the roadside and stay out of the way of cars.
This is the result of ‘defensive walking’ instruction. The pedestrians become invisible and you have “law abiding citizens” as the leading cause of death for small children in the United States. Shame on Senators DeSaulnier, Evans and anybody else who believes a nine year old kid died because the child failed to practice “defensive walking.”
Or you get intersections where people are expected to pick up a flag and wave it in front of them when they cross. I sadly saw that exact thing on a roundabout in Calabasas this weekend, even though it had a well-lighted zebra crosswalk on every side.