Public spaces or parking spaces?

Reading this today reminded me of one of my pet gripes – you will see it all the time in any large town or city.

I work in Boston.  It’s cool.  But you know what’s not cool?  Being a pedestrian in a driver’s intersection.  Either you have to sit and wait for a million years for the “WALK” signal to let you cross, or you have to take your chances and hope any unseen cars will stop as you technically or actually jay-walk.  It’s a sad, sad game.  Of course, this game is played across the nation.  So why am I blogging about it?

Because one of the intersections I have to cross to get to and from work could and should probably be called ableist.

When I go to work, I either ride my bike or take the tram. Leaving apart the danger that cyclists often experience in trying to get from A to B in a healthy and safe manner, taking the tram is also a pretty dangerous experience. I am lucky enough to live close to my tram stop, and need to cross at a pedestrian crossing to get to it. However, time and again, cars run these lights (which are also one block away from my local primary school). That, I can blame on individual drivers, or law enforcement.

However getting off the tram, I have two choices. I can get off at what is popularly known by my friends as the “Wheel of Death” – a 5-way intersection with 3 main tram routes running through the middle of a large roundabout. It’s scary enough for drivers, but for pedestrians it’s almost suicide. To get to my work I need to negotiate zebra crossings (where people don’t stop for pedestrians) , pedestrian crossings (where the lights are badly marked, and ignored), and the extra awesome part where you have to fling yourself across the road  with no assistance from traffic signals or crossings at all.

The other option is to walk for about half a kilometre extra, and bolt over two major roads, neither of which have enough time on the timer for pedestrians to possibly cross in one go.

It’s a silent issue. You won’t see people arguing for it publicly. Its not in the news. But how many time have you had to cross the road at an intersection that’s made purely for drivers? When you press the button, cross when the light turns green, but still are stranded in the middle of the road by the time you finish. It instils fear in pedestrians. More than that, it punishes them for having the temerity to use public transport or walk to their destination, rather than waste money and resources and drive. It punishes those without cars, or those without the funds to have a car.

You won’t find these intersections in the inner city. You’ll find them on major arterials. You’ll find them wherever the car has overcome Shanks pony.

Gender Blender frames this as an ableist issue, which is right to a certain degree. Its not just ableist, because it also discriminates against the able. In my experience, it is discriminatory against the poor.

This is discrimination that is class-based, age based, based on those who choose to make environmentally responsible transport choices. This is making those who have no other choice but to use public transit suffer for the convenience of those who can travel as they please.

Why are our cities built this way and why aren’t we complaining louder?