The Safe Streets Challenge: 2012 – 2015

After considerable and at times quite contentious discussions over the last months with colleagues around the world through various discussion fora, social media, programs, conferences, email, Skype, phone and personal visits, we have decided to make one of the principal themes of our work here at World Streets for the coming year that of Safe Streets.

Varieties of approaches

This is hardly original and we are well aware of that there is a great deal that is going on under this basic theme. And given the terrible dimensions of the challenge, so much the better. One of the most notable of these is the ongoing program of the United Nations who have declared 2011-2020 as the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety. but it is far from the only one. Now there are many ways to skin a cat and likewise there are many ways to make roads — actually we prefer here to talk about streets — safe. And that will be the topic of our work, discussions, collaboration and main contribution over 2012.

Right here at the start we need to make the point that we are not looking for a warm consensus as to the best ways to attack these challenges. To the contrary, we shall be looking for great variety approaches in terms of objectives, targets and techniques, in the belief that the issues are too complex for any single measures or approach. We expect a certain amount of disagreement and friction. That is as it should be. Let the best ideas hang in there, grow and emerge from the vigorous exchanges.

We have a path we think it is important to investigate

Perhaps unlike other ongoing programs, we shall be concentrating in the main in the search for what can be done to make streets safer both (a) in the immediate future — our target period being 2012-2015 — and (b) in ways that will be affordable for cities at a time in which public funding is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain not only in the developing world but also in the cities of the so-called advanced economies. We also wish to seek out and emphasize (c) the potential of participatory approaches in which those living, working and traveling on those streets start to get directly involved in the new safe streets paradigm.

As a final point for this first day, we would emphasize that we should be looking at approaches which not only improve street safety for all parts of the population, but which also offer real potential for scale environmental improvements, energy savings, quality of life, noise reductions, air quality, neighborliness, and all those important qualities that make a city livable and great.

Safe Streets on Facebook: Phase 1

We took a first modest step get the ball rolling on this earlier this morning when we set up under the World Streets Facebook page — a new section devoted specifically to SafeStreets which you can see in its nascent form today at http://www.facebook.com/pages/SafeStreets/275208972525237 . For the time being it is as you might expect still pretty much an empty box, but stay tuned because shortly it will start to be far more interesting and useful.

Be part of it, get involved. You will be glad you did. Ask your kids. Ask your grandmother. Ask your neighbors.

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One response to “The Safe Streets Challenge: 2012 – 2015

  1. Eric,

    This is an excellent initiative. Speed is the silent killer of life, of people, of cities and places.

    The Transportation Research Board (U.S.) is starting a participatory study of Speed and Safety. Libby Thomas, at the Univ of North Carolina is acting as coordinator. She has posted info from an October 11th UNC conference on Speed and Safety. See the material at: http://www.hsrc.unc.edu/index.cfm.

    My own thoughts are that speed and safety are at opposite poles of the transportation “balance sheet.” For a century, when road engineers have claimed to be motivated by safety, they have really been motivated by increasing speed of motor traffic. Why? Because speed adds value to the road vehicles that can achieve the speed, but it creates disadvantage for those who can’t.

    Speed is only one dimension of travel, but becomes the only one in the minds of engineers. Is speed a social good? No. It is a personal good, representing a saving in time for the driver, but comes at the expense of an increase in the “footprint” of the travels, such that fewer can fit on a stretch of road at any point in time, plus the endangerment of all nearby road users.

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