Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Keeping older people mobile shouldn't just involve wider roads and bigger signs

This is a theme in transportation policy: If people are driving off the road or otherwise having crashes, the obvious solution is to make the road more "forgiving," that is make it easier to drive faster and without paying attention. The solution isn't to make people drive slower or be more alert; it's an engineering problem, not a human problem.

Talk about enabling bad behavior. How would the tough-love people feel about fixing the problem of irresponsibility in other areas of our lives by making sure there aren't harsh consequences? I'd love to hear this in a debate among conservatives.

Here's another example, a report on "Keeping Baby Boomers Mobile: Preserving Mobility and Safety for Older Americans."

As a baby boomer myself, I hate to think that national researchers think I won't be mobile soon. But I admit that not only am I on the young end of baby boom, but we all get older, and it's probably a good idea to think about all those people that will need to stay connected to the world. We have built a country where driving is almost required to participate, so this report emphasizes bigger, brighter signs, wider roads with fewer curves, and less things to run into on the side of the road - like bus shelters, benches, trees, or buildings.

No mention at all that maybe people shouldn't drive, if they can't use the roads in a safe and responsible manner. How about building communities where driving is but one option to move around? How about making sure that people that can't drive can walk, take transit, or get a ride another way for their daily activities, entertainment, and social interactions?

But I'm going to let the words that came via email this morning, from David Burwell at the Carnegie Endowment, speak to that issue:

Report of the Week: The Transportation Research Information Program (TRIP) the research affiliate of the Highway Users Alliance, has blessed America with a new report documenting innovative strategies for keeping our senior drivers safe on the roads. Noting that while seniors represent only 8% of the driving public but 18% of driver fatalities, the TRIP report, Keeping Baby Boomers Mobile: Preserving Mobility and Safety for Older Americans, suggests such innovations as requiring "clearer, brighter and simpler signs with large letters." Great idea--and how about the pedestrians, bicyclists and other road users--maybe we (actually, they, since your reporter is a baby boomer) all should be required to carry bright signs in large letters saying "please don't hit me!" Wider left turn lanes are another helpful idea, along with longer turning and exit lanes--providing more pavement for those pesky walkers and bicyclists to cross. One can page through the entire report for programs to provide baby boomers with options to driving--ride-sharing, mixed use developments that reduce the need to travel, more transit options--nope, not there. But this is a Highway Users Alliance publication after all. If seniors don't want to use the highways they are on their own. http://www.tripnet.org/docs/Older_Drivers_TRIP_Report_Feb_2012.pdf.


  1. "I'd love to hear this in a debate among conservatives." Let me try:

    Us seniors are paying 100% of local road costs, and we want that money to go to pay for things that make it easy for us to drive, not some damn bike path for the spandex bike reich that can't be used in winter, or on "sustainable" development whose real goal is to force us out of our suburban homes and our cars as part of a one-world government plan, otherwise known as "Agenda 21". Global warming is a hoax, get over it!

    1. Us seniors are paying for more than 100% of local road costs - don't forget the money that is stolen from the transportation fund and redirected for other programs. I heard that 25% of my federal gas taxes go for bike paths. Those bikies ought to be paying us drivers - cars literally "drive the economy". Without us drivers, the economy would collapse and there would be nobody left to build your $10,000 bike frames or ship your spandex to your bike shop.

  2. Still not addressing the question of enabling irresponsible behavior. Driving is a privilege, not a right. And for those who don't know, both Unknown and BigWheel are being intentionally provocative. Same person, and he doesn't believe his own comments.

    1. Yup, I'm pretending to be the people I hear on talk radio. And if they were to be accused of promoting irresponsible behavior, I think they would simply deny that exercising their freedom of mobility was irresponsible. Further, it is something that is nobody else's business. They would say that becoming dependant on public transportation would be far more irresponsible, since it is so heavily subsidized.

      But they would be wrong on all counts: Right now, local roads in Wisconsin are 83% subsidized, while transit is 66% subsidized. While there is an "Agenda 21", it is not being implemented in a way that forces Americans to do anything. Not a single global warming denier I have talked to can tell me what the safe level of CO2 is. Enhancement funding represents less than 2% of gas tax expenditures. And studies show that the Return on Investment in expanding urban roads is something less than 10 cents on the dollar - which means it is hurting the economy.

      And the people I hear on talk radio would just call me a useful idiot for the UN and stop responding.

  3. Great post. I linked to an article in the Economist on older entrepreneurs http://caroleschatter.blogspot.co.nz/2012/03/economist-article-on-older.html

  4. Another post on the same topic from the Project for Public Spaces: http://bit.ly/yBFu7A