Opinion: The streets of San Diego need to be safe for everyone – not just cars

April 14, 2022

20:00 on Friday in surgical intensive care, trauma. My sister and I are getting ready for the night when suddenly the trauma phone rings. There is a middle-aged man who is brought to the hospital who went for a walk with his dog when he was run over by a car that came out of the parking lot of a fast food place.

The man complains of severe back pain but he is not bleeding and is able to move his arms and legs, a very good sign. When he arrives at the unit he needs urgent radiology and it has been discovered that he has a broken back and will need surgery. He must now lie flat without moving until he can be taken to the operating room, which may require up to 24 hours.

Eventually he will be fine, but not before a prolonged recovery from the physical and psychological trauma he is going through, as well as from the surgery itself. His injuries are not devastating, but they could easily have been, and for many others like him they are.

When my partner and I moved to San Diego less than a year ago, we were excited about the chance to be used throughout the year. Back home we were real urbanists. We walked, rode bikes and rode almost everywhere and rarely had to use a car. When we got to San Diego we expected to do the same thing, only with better weather.

We had a star-gazing vision of walking and cycling around the city all year, but we were shocked when we saw how dangerous this city is for pedestrians and cyclists. In fact, we were injured while walking with our dog in circumstances very similar to those I received at the hospital that night. By all accounts, America’s Finest City is supposed to be one of the friendliest cities for pedestrians, cyclists and transportation in the world, but unfortunately the numbers tell a very different story.

Like many other cities, San Diego has adopted some very ambitious traffic safety targets, with the goal of zeroing in on injuries or serious traffic-related deaths by 2025, but trends are moving in the opposite direction. A 2021 report by Circulate San Diego indicates that traffic-related pedestrian and bicycle collisions actually increased by 2019.

In addition to the concept of traffic safety, San Diego has introduced some serious climate action targets aimed at reducing carbon emissions and improving air quality. Together, climate initiatives and traffic safety serve a common goal for every citizen: to make life safer, healthier and more enjoyable.

The main responsibility for these initiatives lies with the city: the creation of bicycle paths, the installation of street lighting and crossings, the improvement of public transportation, etc. But the second part belongs to the everyday San Diego residents, both in awareness and in the recognition that no one is trying to make it difficult for drivers or businesses.

These initiatives are designed to foster a safer and more equitable experience for anyone who needs to get around, and it’s not just drivers. And although urbanists are often slandered for not seeming worried about the problems facing drivers, what they usually try to do is inspire a culture that works for everyone, because the roads belong to everyone.

Making roads safer for pedestrians and cyclists and increasing access to public transport means fewer people are required to use their cars. And in case you did not follow it means less people are parked, less traffic loads, and according to some recent studies, it is actually better for business.

Hill recently reported that for every $ 1 spent on public transportation, there are $ 5 economic returns. In addition, a study from Portland State University found that smart street design improvements had no significant positive impact or impact on local business performance. This is contrary to the common belief that no parking is worth any business.

These initiatives are not only safer and better for businesses! With fuel prices pushing $ 6 a gallon, we all need to think of ways to get rid of the car, and there is strong evidence to support the countless health benefits of walking around without a car.

Imagine what San Diego could be like if anyone who wanted to could ride, walk or ride safely. It will be good for our climate, business, our wallets and our waistlines. There has never been a more “win-win” scenario.

Alan Pentecost is a Surgical Intensive Care Nurse in San Diego and a graduate student in public health.

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