Friday, January 29, 2010

Excuses and misdirection

Dylan Reid has a post up on Spacing Wire, arguing that the law doesn't actually say you can't cross a street in the middle of a block. Since I have neither a law degree nor the facilities necessary to research this, I'll take his word for it, but I'll still make an effort to cross at the crosswalk.

Of course, that does not mean I'll feel safe at the crosswalk; I've seen too many cars sail through crosswalks, and, honestly, I have to admit I've gotten distracted and done it myself. The same goes for a multitude of other driving mistakes; they all endanger other road users, particularly pedestrians. The infuriating aspect of a blitz ticketing "jaywalkers" right after collisions with cars killed eleven pedestrians in as many days has less to do with the legalities, and more to do with the way a blitz ticketing pedestrians reinforces the motoring culture of excuses, entitlement, and impunity.

Like everyone in this city, I walk. I also cycle, like most of us, I take transit, and I drive. When eleven pedestrians die in as many days, and the police and the media lay a large part of the blame on the victims, that makes everyone less safe. Pedestrians do not have the same responsibility as motorists do. When I take a two-tonne steel bomb into a public place, I have the responsibility to ensure that I don't kill anyone with it. When I haven't had enough sleep, or I have alcohol, any alcohol or sedating drugs, in my system, that means I let someone else drive. The rest of the time, it means I use all my skills and concentration to make as sure as I possibly can that the convenience I get from driving does not come at the cost of someone else's life. I consider what I do the bare minimum that any responsible person who takes a motorized vehicle on the roads has a duty to do.

When the media promote the line that pedestrians always lose in a collision, presented as a concern for pedestrians rather than a dire responsibility for drivers, we all get a lot less safe. Because even if we didn't have to get out of our steel cages, even if we could live behind our crumple zones and air bags, we know car safety features will not protect us from the recklessness possible with a car. Everyone can lose loses in a crash.

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