Urban planning community

+ Reply to thread
Results 1 to 16 of 16

Thread: Streets are only for cars, says Texas police officer speaking for his city

  1. #1
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 1996
    Location
    Upstate New York
    Posts
    14,565
    Blog entries
    3

    Streets are only for cars, says Texas police officer speaking for his city

    The rapidly growing community where i used to work outside of Austin once promoted some very progressive planing practice. (My apologies sfor the alliteration.) It adopted the SmartCode, out of a strong desire to maintain a distinct sense of place, avoid a monoculture of commercial and residential development, make the community attractive to broad range of prospective residents, and create neighborhoods that will age gracefully. Unlike other parts of suburban Austin, streets were envisioned not solely as the conduit to get a motor vehicle from Point A to Point B, but as a commons; a place where residents can interact with each other.

    Unfortunately, one of the police officers speaking for the city disagrees, in a recently published editorial in that city's newspaper titled "Streets are not for child’s play"

    Citizens frequently file traffic complaints with the [city] Police Department about traffic problems where they live.

    Most traffic complaints revolve around traffic going too fast in a residential area. Sometimes complaints include the fact that traffic is going too fast for children to play in the street.

    In suburban America, many people think that playing in the street is almost a birthright. Many of us used the street growing up to play ball, roller skate, ride a bike off a ramp, etc.

    The fact of the matter is that streets are primarily for the movement of vehicles. Pedestrians are allowed to cross the street at an intersection or crosswalk when they have right of way, or walk along the left side of the street if there is no sidewalk.

    Any other pedestrian traffic on a street is illegal and unsafe, including children playing in the street. Such activity should be discouraged by parents.

    A police officer may issue a citation to a pedestrian for illegally being in the roadway. Most children who play in the roadway are too young to be criminally responsible for their own behavior, so it falls on parents to be sure to keep their children off the road.

    The prima facie (presumed) speed limit in a residential area inside the city limits has been determined by the state to be 30 mph. The state has determined that speed is generally a safe speed for most conditions.

    Of course, that speed is no longer safe if there are people in the roadway. That is especially true of children who are not as experienced as adults at traffic safety. This issue usually does not come to the public’s attention until after a tragedy occurs, but the hope of the police department is for public awareness without a tragedy.
    Basically, he says:

    1) Residents believe their streets are more than just roadways, but a common gathering area.
    2) That's not true. Streets are only for cars. Pedestrians do not have the right-of-way.
    3) Pedestrians don't belong in streets, unless they're crossing them at designated areas.
    4) Pedestrians in streets are illegal, unless there's no sidewalk, in which case, they better stay on the margins.
    5) Playing in the street is illegal.
    6) We'll issue citations to people who use streets illegally.
    7) The safety of cars, and their right to travel at the 30 mph (45 km/h) speed limit, is more important than the safety of people in the street and their right to assemble.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  2. #2
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
    Registered
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Hang on Sloopy...land
    Posts
    9,808
    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    The rapidly growing community where i used to work outside of Austin once promoted some very progressive planing practice. (My apologies sfor the alliteration.) It adopted the SmartCode, out of a strong desire to maintain a distinct sense of place, avoid a monoculture of commercial and residential development, make the community attractive to broad range of prospective residents, and create neighborhoods that will age gracefully. Unlike other parts of suburban Austin, streets were envisioned not solely as the conduit to get a motor vehicle from Point A to Point B, but as a commons; a place where residents can interact with each other.

    Unfortunately, one of the police officers speaking for the city disagrees, in a recently published editorial in that city's newspaper titled "Streets are not for child’s play"



    Basically, he says:

    1) Residents believe their streets are more than just roadways, but a common gathering area.
    2) That's not true. Streets are only for cars. Pedestrians do not have the right-of-way.
    3) Pedestrians don't belong in streets, unless they're crossing them at designated areas.
    4) Pedestrians in streets are illegal, unless there's no sidewalk, in which case, they better stay on the margins.
    5) Playing in the street is illegal.
    6) We'll issue citations to people who use streets illegally.
    7) The safety of cars, and their right to travel at the 30 mph (45 km/h) speed limit, is more important than the safety of people in the street and their right to assemble.
    I look at the same as when engineer's think that roads should be 2 miles wide with no obstructions. They view the world in a really stupid light. Kinda like wearing blinders in a race where no one else is even racing.

    Instead of worrying about the people who interact with the environment, they are worried about 1% chance of something occurring. They want people to change their environment to make their lives easier....
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  3. #3
    Cyburbian rcgplanner's avatar
    Registered
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Back in SE Texas
    Posts
    1,665
    Friendly neighborhood police officer doesn't seem to understand the concept of street classification. Nobody is advocating that pedestrians and kids should be playing in the middle of I-35, but what is wrong with allowing people to walk and play on Wooded Hills Drive or some other palatial suburban nirvana. God forbid that the residents actually get to know their neighbors and are active on the street instead of holed up in their backyards. Screw those residents, it is more important not to inconvienence a driver who would have to slow down from 30 mph (more like 45 mph) to 15 or 20 mph.

    The ironic thing is that discouraging people to stay off the street and keeping them holed up inside or in their backyard is a perfect recipe for neighborhood crime. Most neighborhoods look like a scene from a ghost town because of the lack of activity on the street.

  4. #4
    When I was a kid I use to play street hockey with other kids from the neighborhood. I lived on a quiet residential street. As soon as someone spotted a car coming, they would yell "CAR!" and we'd move all the equipment to the side as the car approached. The driver would slow down, usually waive, and go on their way. There was never any accidents and no one seemed to mind.

    Then I moved to Florida and that was the end of that.
    The content contrarian

  5. #5
    Cyburbian HomerJ's avatar
    Registered
    Dec 2010
    Location
    I'm gettin' there
    Posts
    931
    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    Basically, he says:

    1) Residents believe their streets are more than just roadways, but a common gathering area.
    2) That's not true. Streets are only for cars. Pedestrians do not have the right-of-way.
    3) Pedestrians don't belong in streets, unless they're crossing them at designated areas.
    4) Pedestrians in streets are illegal, unless there's no sidewalk, in which case, they better stay on the margins.
    5) Playing in the street is illegal.
    6) We'll issue citations to people who use streets illegally.
    7) The safety of cars, and their right to travel at the 30 mph (45 km/h) speed limit, is more important than the safety of people in the street and their right to assemble.

    A common feature of so many great neighborhoods is narrow streets with lower speeds. The point being, the street design is focused on the local residents rather than the cars passing through.

    His argument may be functional, but he presents it in the form of an opinion on how we should look at residential streets. People aren't robots, just because a particular street was originally designed for a car doesn't mean that particular street must always be used solely for a car.
    Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
    Registered
    Jul 2009
    Location
    Colo Front Range
    Posts
    2,423
    We're talking about how well a Texas cop understands a complex subject for which he likely has no training, and commenting on how smart his statement was? Is that what is happening here? Srsly? A TX cop?
    -------
    Give a man a gun, and he can rob a bank. Give a man a bank, and he can rob the world.

  7. #7
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
    Registered
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Hang on Sloopy...land
    Posts
    9,808
    Quote Originally posted by OfficialPlanner View post
    When I was a kid I use to play street hockey with other kids from the neighborhood. I lived on a quiet residential street. As soon as someone spotted a car coming, they would yell "CAR!" and we'd move all the equipment to the side as the car approached. The driver would slow down, usually waive, and go on their way. There was never any accidents and no one seemed to mind.

    Then I moved to Florida and that was the end of that.
    Wayne's World style? Nice!
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  8. #8
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
    Registered
    Jun 2003
    Location
    at the neighboring pub
    Posts
    5,281
    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    We're talking about how well a Texas cop understands a complex subject for which he likely has no training, and commenting on how smart his statement was? Is that what is happening here? Srsly? A TX cop?
    Our City Engineer and Police Chief (in a Texas town) would have dressed down that officer in a pretty hardcore manner for writing that editorial for precisely that reason--he is not qualified to discuss roadway design and use. My City Engineer happens to like narrow streets--mainly because then he doesn't have to deal with people whining for speed humps and because it allows much of the underground infrastructure to be placed so that street cuts are not necessary to repair underground infrastructure, better preserving the integrity of the pavement. Likewise, having people in & near the street slows traffic down.

    Our Police Chief likes narrow roads because it cuts down on speeding and gets more pedestrians (and specifically their eyes) on the street. He likes seeing lots of pedestrians around in neighborhoods becuase it discourages property crime. He's really big on the CPTED stuff, especially natural surveillance, as a crime deterrent.

    Only problem we've been having is with on-street parking causing some line-of-sight issues because of the curvilinear street pattern. We had a light push from a councilmember to widen the street, but I was able to show that it was cost-prohibitive to retrofit and would unnecessarily inflate the cost of new development (marks the first time I've ever used that argument).

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Oct 2004
    Location
    New Orleans, LA
    Posts
    368
    Well, if one untrained cop wants to argue with the Supreme Court of the United States, that doesn't seem like it's particularly newsworthy. This doesn't even move the needle compared to things like people being acquitted of driving over and killing people on the shoulder of an empty four lane highway with perfect visibility because driving along the shoulder and not changing lanes is "just my driving style".

  10. #10
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 2004
    Location
    Where Valley Fever Lives
    Posts
    7,218

    Racetracks

    I can't believe my local arterials have a speed limit of 55mph! It just seems insane with attached sidewalks and the fact that this is California. I tried to sustain 55mph between signals and it wasn't easy or comfortable. Then again this part of California is the Texas of this state. (Kern County/Bakersfield) My favorite local streets have always been those without sidewalks and narrow or with tree medians. What do you expect from a cop, they live in their car for cripes sake. Wouldn't it be great if they would park their cruiser and ride a bike through neighborhoods?
    Skilled Adoxographer

  11. #11
    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    The rapidly growing community where i used to work outside of Austin once promoted some very progressive planing practice. (My apologies sfor the alliteration.) It adopted the SmartCode, out of a strong desire to maintain a distinct sense of place, avoid a monoculture of commercial and residential development, make the community attractive to broad range of prospective residents, and create neighborhoods that will age gracefully. Unlike other parts of suburban Austin, streets were envisioned not solely as the conduit to get a motor vehicle from Point A to Point B, but as a commons; a place where residents can interact with each other.

    Unfortunately, one of the police officers speaking for the city disagrees, in a recently published editorial in that city's newspaper titled "Streets are not for child’s play"



    Basically, he says:

    1) Residents believe their streets are more than just roadways, but a common gathering area.
    2) That's not true. Streets are only for cars. Pedestrians do not have the right-of-way.
    3) Pedestrians don't belong in streets, unless they're crossing them at designated areas.
    4) Pedestrians in streets are illegal, unless there's no sidewalk, in which case, they better stay on the margins.
    5) Playing in the street is illegal.
    6) We'll issue citations to people who use streets illegally.
    7) The safety of cars, and their right to travel at the 30 mph (45 km/h) speed limit, is more important than the safety of people in the street and their right to assemble.


    Yeah, all of this seems pretty boneheaded. Narrower streets where children are playing has a tendency to slow drivers down. In most suburban environments, people speeding through at 40 mph + when the speed limit is 25-30 mph is a much bigger problem than kids getting hit. As mentioned earlier, all of us remember playing in the street as kids and when drivers passed through, we all simply got out of the street for a few seconds to let him pass. Of course, this may be a problem if the driver is traveling 50 mph instead of the 25-30 mph that he should be traveling at. He might not be able to stop in time.

    Seems to me that kids playing in the street makes that street safer because it forces drivers to slow down, which is exactly what you want in a residential neighborhood.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
    Registered
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Remote command post at local bar
    Posts
    4,140
    Yes, but as the officer in the article said, we wouldn't want to create a hazard to the car or slow them down. Can you imagine the guilt the driver would feel if he hit a kid. It would of course be the hockey playing kids fault for not yelling CAR soon enough, but the guilt would just be too much of a burden. We must stop street hockey, football, and any other street sports.
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  13. #13
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
    Registered
    Jun 2003
    Location
    at the neighboring pub
    Posts
    5,281
    BTW, I spoke with the planning director for that city. Needless to say, that officer got in some hot water with both him and the police chief.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
    Registered
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Jamestown, New York
    Posts
    1,684
    I'm gonna give the cop the benefit of the doubt because I live in a city where adults and kids seem to have difficulty understanding that sidewalks are for walking on, especially at night and/or in inclement weather -- and where a significant number of dumbarsed parents allow their primary and pre-school kids to play in/near the street unsupervised.

    At least one or two get picked off every year. The most recent one was a kindergartener sledding down a fairly steep hill into a major arterial in an area with no houses around and at dusk. I figure it's only a matter of time before one of the kids at the end of my block becomes a statistic despite neighbors and drivers repeatedly calling CPS about these kids.
    If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. -- John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1961

  15. #15
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
    Registered
    Jul 2009
    Location
    Colo Front Range
    Posts
    2,423
    Quote Originally posted by Suburb Repairman View post
    BTW, I spoke with the planning director for that city. Needless to say, that officer got in some hot water with both him and the police chief.
    :o)
    -------
    Give a man a gun, and he can rob a bank. Give a man a bank, and he can rob the world.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Oct 2007
    Location
    San Diego, CA
    Posts
    752
    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    "Streets are not for child’s play"
    Well, from his (admittedly limited) perspective, he has a point. He's thinking of the streets he has to patrol and deal with .. and to prevent kids from getting hit by vehicles on, within the current constraints of the law. Cops aren't supposed to be planners or designers. His job is to keep you safe on the streets in your community today, not the envision a future with complete streets in the community of tomorrow. It's our job as planners to communicate what they vision will look like and to persuade stakeholders - including traffic cops - that it can all be made to work with good design, but, in the mean time, suggesting that automobile-oriented streets in some TX suburb can somehow become a pedestrian paradise overnight is probably folly.

+ Reply to thread

More at Cyburbia

  1. How cars change the city and time
    Design, Space, and Place
    Replies: 2
    Last post: 22 Jul 2009, 9:32 PM
  2. A city without cars (NYT)
    Design, Space, and Place
    Replies: 13
    Last post: 09 Jul 2009, 4:01 PM
  3. Johnson City, Texas
    Cities and Places
    Replies: 4
    Last post: 24 May 2009, 12:04 PM
  4. Replies: 6
    Last post: 28 Jan 2007, 9:46 PM
  5. Replies: 29
    Last post: 13 Sep 2005, 7:03 PM