Welcome to the Comment of the Week, where we highlight good comments in order to inspire more of them. You can help us choose our next one by replying with “comment of the week” to any comment you think deserves recognition. Please note: These selections are not endorsements.
We ended the week with a post about a car-racing driver who killed a bystander on SE Stark as she waited for a bus.
This is a heartbreaking story, and BikePortland writes too many of them. Faced with yet another death, it is hard for commenters to find words that express their frustration, anger and feeling of impotence.
But ITOTS wrote a few profound paragraphs which describe the breadth our problem.
Here is a portion of their comment:
Put another way, Oslo reached vision zero in 2019. But take an average busy Oslo street or intersection and plop it down in the US, and I don’t think anyone here would call it a Vision Zero Design (TM). Everyone here can imagine a couple hoonigans jamming down that street at 50-70 mph. I’m not saying the Oslo street isn’t significantly better than a Stark. I am saying that in America, that’s not gonna get us where we’re supposed to be going.
For all the carnage our streets produce, the way they function today clearly has beneficiaries and supporters. Clearly these deaths, the so-called “cost of doing business”, are worth it—that the balance between benefits and burdens is roughly correct (access/mobility/thrills vs deaths/injuries/fears/environmental and public health impacts). Until this balance is actually seen to be publicly and institutionally incorrect, we will continue to see solutions that play around the edges of addressing a sick culture addicted to going nowhere fast, not able or willing to see beyond the bottom of a bottle, the glowing rectangle in their hand, a sense of responsibility to anything that’s not securing the next dopamine hit, let alone what’s in front of the hood of their speeding automobile.
Yes this problem is systemic (i.e. doesn’t only rest on individuals making bad choices), but there are multiple systems involved and I too often hear people setting culpability squarely on the quality or condition of infrastructure (as if we are automatons that can only do what the world around us tells us to) when that same infrastructure (or similar) can host street fairs and pedalpaloozas that transform it, curb to curb, not because we changed concrete and asphalt but because enough of us decided temporarily it should be a different kind of place. Of course there are cracks in this edifice (see: pissed-off and entitled drivers barging their way through Sunday Parkways, but again that disposition is a cultural product that not just a few people in this comment section spent time justifying in its most recently recorded instance).
But the presence of cracks in one of the pillars is fine. Because the point is this is a multivariate problem which needs a multi-pillared solution and that if places like Stark all must be transformed before people can stop dying on our streets, Portland, let alone America, won’t have the time, resources, or will to get there.