Friday, March 22, 2013

Right to Walk

“Public Right of Way” is an old legal concept that developed in Europe during the reign of kings. Although it is a complex concept the basic idea is that all people have a right to go to along common routes and to be protected from danger while traveling. There was a time when highwaymen were the greatest threat, but that day has passed.

Today there is a new threat on the public roads. Some 40,000 Americans are killed each year and cars maim many more. In attempts to reduce threat, we have made use of motor vehicles a licensed privilege. The entire body of traffic regulation has been created to contain the threat of motorized vehicles.

Everybody still has a right to freely use the roadways and even with all the restrictions that have been placed upon motor vehicles, we still are not safe from them. A sober analysis of the huge investments made by every level of government in automotive infrastructure and the undesirable impacts of this system upon our environment will lead to a call for greater restriction upon the uses of motor vehicles. Using traffic demand management and existing land use controls, we could transition toward a world of walkable neighborhoods linked by efficient, shared transit.

It is worthwhile to hold out such idealized visions, but given the state of the climate, we cannot afford to delay action. We don’t want anything to inhibit people from making sensible choices now, altering their lifestyles over concern for the future.

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