Monday, February 2, 2009

A Privilege, Not a Right

Drop a flower pot off a high-up windowsill and kill someone, you might face criminal charges. Slam into a pedestrian in the middle of a crosswalk and what happens, exactly?

WalkBikeCT has a spot-on analysis of modern American transportation pathology. Despite words to the contrary (words, I might add, that every would-be young driver is supposed to learn and take to heart) we treat driving as a god-given right in this country, and especially here in California. And as long as we keep thinking that way we can expect atrocities like these to keep happening.

Portland has a Vulnerable Users Law that puts responsibility on the operators of more dangerous vehicles for the safety of more vulnerable road users. Bikes have to look out for the safety of pedestrians and cars have more responsibility to look after bicyclists. San Francisco needs a law like this. Otherwise we will continue to tacitly discourage walking and biking because of what is essentially bullying by motorists - the threat of physical harm if we don't give up our lunch money right of way.

And we need to enforce laws already on the books protecting that right of way. DPT needs to actually respond to calls about cars parked on the sidewalk. The police need to ticket drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk. And in the unfortunate instances where vulnerable roadway user is hurt or killed by a vehicle, appropriate criminal charges need to be filed. It's against the law to kill people. Why doesn't law enforcement act like it?

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