It’s been interesting to see the recent focus in the local rag on pedestrians around Hobart’s CBD – bit of a synopsis here. There have also been two cyclist accidents, even more recently: one fatal and one resulting in serious injuries.
While it is a terrible indictment on the human condition that people had to be hurt or killed to realise that we all probably drive too fast through our built up areas (or indeed in most places we drive), it is also certainly is a sobering reminder of the fragility of humans as a species when they are physically forced to take on one of the most important inventions of modern times – the motor car.
Traditionally, many of Hobart’s drivers appear to believe that pedestrians are of similar value to dog shit on one’s shoe. Indeed, many set about directly intimidating people that dare step into the realm of the car – the road. Even when given permission to enter the roadspace by the little green man at traffic lights, the red flasher soon reminds pedestrians of their place and hurries them out of way, to reduce the waiting time for our impatient motorists, to get them to Big W or McDonalds ten seconds faster.
As such, it’s been surprisingly refreshing to see some realisation that our cities are made not by the cars that come there, but rather the people that choose to visit. As such, we need to think more about moving people through and around our cities – rather than simply moving cars.
It was interesting to hear Jan Gehl talk when he came to Hobart earlier in the year – he found it incredulous that people had to ask permission (by pressing the walk button) to cross the road. And then to cross within a short period, after asking for permission and waiting patiently for their application to be processed and approved. Especially given that cars get automatic permission to move.
So let’s save an endangered species – the pedestrian.