Safe Spaces

If I say that our use of the 85th%ile rule is killing people (and I think the data shows that it is – a point I think the NTSB has acknowledged), is that “aggressive and argumentative”? Does that allegation render some space “unsafe”? That would appear to be the claim of the new acting head of AMATS, the Anchorage Metropolitan Area Transportation metropolitan plan organization.

Let’s face it, all I am pointing out is that our planning and design concepts from the foundations up are in fact the reasons people die on our highways. While many have known and argued this for years, it is particularly illuminating when traffic engineers like Charles Marohn are attacked professionally over it.

No area of study predicated on the premise that humans act rationally can ever be seen as rational or science-based because we have oodles (that’s oodles in the scientific sense) of evidence that this IS NOT the case.

So, would you say that someone arguing for streets to be “safe spaces” being called out for making “unsafe spaces” by way of his requests, “double speak” ? Is it intended to lead to “double think” ?

I recently chatted with a DOT employee who was asking why I would suggest that local municipal ordinance mandates the planning department collaborate with community councils on any plans, and that municipal staff working with AMATS who refuse so to do are violating the spirit as well as the letter of the law (not to mention the offense it does to the bylaws of community councils that were forced upon them by ordinance). Don’t you find it strange that despite the clear language about the roles of community councils in developing plans at all stages, that folk involved in metropolitan planning should questioning efforts to engage councils?

A conversation with a municipal employee about disagreeing agreeably brought the matter into focus for me. Aside from the mathematical impossibility of agreeing to disagree (yes, there IS a peer reviewed paper on that ) my question is how to be agreeable over something like the implications of the 85th%ile rule, or claims made when records requests show no basis for the claims. If I say, “Well Donald, your statement is demonstrably inaccurate based on these well documented facts”, why should Donald get upset?

I want people to stop dying on our roads. The NTSB has made it very clear that people are dying on our roads because of poor planning, design, and enforcement. How does my municipality, any municipality deflect that? Well, in large part we dissemble (some suggest that is the polite way to argue mendacity); we don’t adequately enforce, we don’t properly plan, and we design and construct with reckless abandon. While whinging against corporate personhood when it comes to rights, we seem happy the avoid any personal responsibility by blaming all on the corporate body.

Offering our state DOT staff a challenge; I agreed that if their engineers would run all the roundabout crossings of one of their roundabout highway intersections (2 roundabouts and numerous crosswalks) without stopping or slowing down I would cease carping about roundabout safety. Of course no one took me up on the challenge as it would not be safe, and yet the same agency prints materials claiming that those self same crossings are safe. You just can’t have it both ways.

People should be safe from terrible bodily injury sustained on our roads and streets. That injury is in no small part the result of the actions of AMATS staff. That may be disagreeable and uncomfortable, but it is true. That should make one feel unclean, not unsafe. I suppose the contra argument AMATS makes is “we only plan; we don’t design”. The unfortunate parallels to those claims are too low hanging to bear repeating here.

One of the guys who actually gets our roads and trails maintained and I frequently meet, and he, like some others, thanks me for calling and encourages me to continue despite the fact that I suppose I AM very critical. What do you think is the differential between someone like that and someone who claims to be afraid to talk to me via zoom?

Having been told that words hurt, let me suggest they don’t hurt as much as getting hit by a truck.

Aumann, Robert J. “Agreeing to Disagree.” The Annals of Statistics 4, no. 6 (November 1, 1976): 1236–39.
Barrera, Devora. “Dowling Road/Seward Highway Interchange Reconstruction.” Bike Anchorage (blog). Accessed January 25, 2022.
Herman, Edward S. Beyond Hypocrisy: Decoding the News in an Age of Propaganda : Including A Doublespeak Dictionary for the 1990s. Montr??al: Black Rose Books, 1992.
National Transportation Safety Board. “Bicyclist Safety on US Roadways: Crash Risks and Countermeasures.” Safety Research Report. Washington, D.C.: NTSB, November 5, 2019. Https://
Orwell, George. Nineteen Eighty-Four. New York: Millstone Editions, 1949.
Schmitt, Angie. “The 85th Percentile Rule Is Killing Us.” Streetsblog USA (blog), August 11, 2017.