Walking on the Wild Side
Jul 06, 2012 11:43AM
By Patrick Kennedy
The Congressional District of two-thirds of a million people that includes Dallas holds the very dubious distinction of being most dangerous in the country for pedestrians. It’s so bad that perhaps walkers should start wearing helmets. Transportation for America’s recent report, Dangerous by Design, tallied pedestrian deaths in the country from 2001 through 2010. District TX-30, which comprises central Dallas and sections of South and West Dallas yielded 289 fatalities.
The first priority of public officials ought to be public safety. But instead, our infrastructure planning, funding, and design seems to be disconnected from city building. The effort to move cars quickly is paramount because it is seen as linked to economic development. It may be that 20th century infrastructure is a burden on qualitative growth towards better cities and safer communities.
The federal government requires each community across the country to put together a Thoroughfare Plan that prioritizes funds for larger roads and creates an incentive for cities to put more roads into larger classification hierarchies. As roads get bigger, faster and more dangerous, the flipside of that equation is that it stretches the real estate tax base to the breaking point of its ability to maintain those same roads.
Cities are shaped by the primary transportation technology of the day. It’s always a painful economic period when they go through a structural and technological phase shift. The Internet is merging the parallel geographies of digital and physical cities and empowering citizens to choose the most appropriate route and mode of transportation for their needs, provided the infrastructure is available for that choice. We’re not there yet, but if and when we do, we’ll have more economical, equitable and sustainable cities. And they’ll be a whole lot safer, too.
Patrick Kennedy is a partner and urban planner at Space Between Design Studio. He blogs about walkability issues at WalkableDFW.com.