An oft-used phrase that indicates something secretive, sinister and unwelcome can be appropriate when setting the mood for fearful contemplation and unease. In this case, the subject is worthy of an Edgar Allan Poe story of hubris and impending doom. Short days and long hours of darkness have increased the likelihood of traffic incidents resulting in serious consequences. Speed and reckless behavior have become the linchpins for tragedy.
Recently, another preventable catastrophic automobile accident occurred in the Niles District of Fremont, resulting in the death of a pedestrian and canine companion. Although Fremont is actively engaged in multiple aspects of preventive safety measures, termed “Vision Zero”, designed to ensure “safe, healthy, equitable mobility for all,” this isn’t enough. Safe behaviors cannot – and should not – be the sole product of legislation since shared responsibility is part of a free and democratic society.
Watching the excessive speed, inattention to traffic signals and wanton disregard or ignorance of basic rules of the road by motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians, it is a wonder that mayhem on the roads is not more widespread. Excuses by those in a hurry and irritated by others who share the roads do not result in “accidents”, rather purposeful and avoidable incidents that maim or kill, destroy property and, for many, demolish economic well-being. While mistakes happen and are a human condition, too many incidents are not the result of innocent error, rather the harsh consequence of poor attitudes.
A Vision Zero statement notes that “…because so many fear for their safety on our streets, there is no true freedom of mobility.” Can we feel truly free if mobility is limited by irresponsible behavior? As debate over methods to achieve safe mobility are aired, the primary motive should be integration of all traffic control methods and devices including behavioral modification. Narrowing streets to theoretically slow traffic and modify behavior is, for some, a challenge to negotiate reduced lane widths at high speeds.
Just as a concentrated campaign has reduced cigarette usage in our communities, it did not eradicate nor slow the entrepreneurial avenues of vaping. However, the synergy of laws and restrictions combined with education about the effect of relatively clean air for all of us has had great impact. Its time to use the same method to confront our behavioral traffic problems. There is much to do to reduce the impact of too many people traveling on an inadequate road system. Let’s not forget the role of erratic and irresponsible behavioral problems.
Fremont has organized a Mobility Commission to explore and advise the City about a host of problems associated with all forms of travel. Hopefully, education and public relations will be an integral component of the solution. Although we may be part of the problem, we can also be part of the solution as well… even on dark and stormy nights.