The Strong Towns Podcast

Greatest Hits #8: Gross Negligence (2015)

March 12, 2019

You are grossly negligent if you show a conscious indifference to the safety of others. In other words, you’re aware that the safety of others is endangered, but you don’t do anything to act on that knowledge.

Virtually nothing Strong Towns has done or said in ten years has inspired as much anger or controversy as the times we have argued that the engineering profession, for designing and building unsafe streets, deserves a share of the blame for the statistically inevitable tragedies that occur on those streets.

And yet, this is some of the most important work we have done in our ten years. Because lives are at stake. People continue to be killed on urban streets that are designed to move cars quickly through complex environments.

Among the cases that Strong Towns President Charles Marohn has written about at length:

There’s more where that came from. All over this country, we build urban environments where we tell ourselves we want lively human activity. We fill them up with businesses, libraries, parks, schools, homes, where people are certain to be coming and going. And then we run stroads through them that are engineered so that drivers will travel at speeds that will kill a person who is hit.

We design streets that are forgiving of driver error—wide lanes, clear zones in case you run off the road—as 1800 cars did in 15 months on on road studied in Orlando. But in doing so, we ensure these streets are utterly unforgiving of errors committed by those on foot. We do this despite that we know death will be the statistically inevitable outcome sooner or later.

Is the engineering profession intellectually and institutionally prepared for a world in which we stop doing this, and accept that urban environments require slow streets?