Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Driver, Can You Spare a Dime?

Last night the City Council voted 5 to 3 to uphold Councilman Phipps's ordinance against in-street collections for charities or other causes. I voted no and thought I'd explain why.

I'm normally quite in agreeance, as an incarcerated former co-worker might say, with Mr. Phipps. I'm certain his intentions are good with this ordinance. I'm not strongly committed to either side of the argument. In fact, if I had just been hit up for a donation at some street corner, I might have voted differently. And that may be the basic reason I voted against the measure. Just because my easy-mark status makes me vulnerable to gentle tugs on my purse strings, I don't want to pull the plug on all street solicitations.

I'm sure that's not the impetus behind Mr. Phipps's bill. I believe he genuinely sees it as a safety issue.

I don't see that standing in the middle of a street corner is, or should be, terribly dangerous. If people are driving so recklessly that anyone not armored with a ton or so of molded metal is vulnerable to vehicular trauma, our city needs greater help than this ordinance offers. If drivers are so surprised to see humans on a street, that tells us more about the preeminence of machines over humans, and the ordinance will not balance that equation. If people are so stupid and distracted, and hellbent on reaching their destination when driving, then the streets aren't safe for anyone.
Admittedly, common sense guidelines need to be followed in collections at intersections. Special attention should be taken of young participants of the bucket brigades so they don't act irresponsibly. And yes, other forms of fund raising might be favored over collections at intersections. But we should not fall into the pattern of seeing streets as a no man's land fit only for the efficient movement of cars and trucks.

I've asked for a street light to be installed on East Spring at Cost Avenue. I saw a child nearly run over there because she was exercising the level of caution one might expect from, a child. Apparently that location does not rise to the level of concern needed to earn the investment of a traffic light. A traffic light there might make that long block from Silver Street to the county line a safer place for pedestrians.

I've also asked for a street light at West First and Spring. I've almost been hit there and I've seen others almost  hit there. The response from INDOT was that it's analysis didn't show enough hazard at that intersection to inflict delay on drivers headed toward the Big Green signs of the interstate. I interpreted that dismissal to mean that absent a fatality or two at that corner, there was no need to bother motorists with  a traffic signal.

The fact is, streets are for people. Some of the people using those streets may be drivers. But the more we assign primacy to people in cars over people moving or using the streets in other ways, the longer it will take to ever arrive at a point where we reassert it is people who belong in their  city. It is people the city is built for, not cars. Since "transportation planners" long ago saw fit to route interstates through the hearts of many cities, the scales have been tilted overwhelmingly toward the automobile. I see no reason to aid or abet their mistakes. And I see this proposal as acquiescence in further relegating streets to the exclusive domain of the car.


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