Lawsuits against auto makers that turned a blind eye to profits over people and regulators for the automotive industry have created safer cars then ever before. Cars today can withstand some impacts at up to 85 mph and some people survive those impacts. Yet, as automobiles become safer, our roads are increasingly dangerous for pedestrians, and cyclists, and our access outside of the automobile is more likely to be limited in favor of increased car lanes.
It is a literal battle, requiring proof of danger to get cities to increase access for mobility options such as sidewalks and bike lanes. Threat of lawsuits is in fact not threatening in Texas primarily because of the very strong governmental immunities that prevent lawsuits against cities, the State, and counties. Yet, vehicle violence is a constant threat. From 2004-2013 634 of our neighbors here in Austin, Texas have been killed in traffic. Traffic fatalities involving pedestrians are going up and Austin now ranks seventh in the number of pedestrians killed in the US cities with populations over 500,000. (NHTSA).
These statistics are not just about that guy, over there, in the distance. These are statistics involving all of us. Kids walking to and from school are susceptible so that includes every parent, every child, and that alone is each of us. Each time you park your car and cross the street, you are that pedestrian. We are all pedestrians at some point and it could be any of us or our family, our kids, that could be the next victim of vehicle violence.
The Pedestrian Advisory Council in Austin meets regularly to affect change and is working with multiple organizations here in town to create Vision Zero, a campaign with action and strategies to address traffic safety for all road users and aims to achieve zero fatalities. Think about attending a meeting, or showing up in your neighborhood meetings to address the concerns of limited or no sidewalks, limited or no bike lanes, attend city council meetings when these items are on the agenda.
As Austin grows we have a great chance to be a very accessible and mobile community where mobility should not be considered a threat but instead one of the aspects of our city that makes Austin all the more vibrant. After all, we all have to get around.