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Why Isn’t There a Massive Civil Response to Traffic Violence?

Jonathan Maus at Bike Portland is having a contemplative moment. In rapid succession over the last few days, he's seen so much evidence of the damage that traffic inflicts: a seriously injured cyclist in Portland, a new study linking exhaust inhalation to autism, the death of journalist Michael Hastings, who was killed in a Los Angeles car crash. The list goes on.

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Sometimes, it can feel overwhelming, says Maus, to be constantly inundated with news about lives cut short on American streets.

— Also yesterday afternoon, 65-year-old Scappoose, Oregon resident Wayne McCormick was driving his Buick on Highway 30 when 39-year-old Mark Thomas's SUV crossed over the center median "for an unconfirmed reason" and slammed into him. McCormick died instantly and Thomas has life-threatening injuries.

— Scott Van Hiatt of Neskowin, Oregon was arrested Monday for criminally negligent homicide. On May 14th, Van Hiatt drove his pickup into Seattle resident Richard Swanson and killed him as he walked on Highway 101. Swanson had planned to dribble a soccer ball from Seattle to Brazil.

— And this morning, a semi-truck plummeted 65 feet from the top deck of I-84 westbound as it transitions onto I-5 in Portland. The driver, who apparently collided with a small car prior to the wreck, sustained life-threatening injuries and had to be extricated from the cab by rescue teams.

This is just a sampling of the carnage that hits my inbox and Twitter feed every day. It disgusts me and it's embarrassing as an American citizen to know that this happens in my country. It's also got me wondering... Why isn't there a massive civil response or national dialogue about the rampant traffic deaths and destruction we experience every day? Look at the national movement to defeat and cure cancer. Where are all the 5K runs and fundraisers to raise awareness and create urgency to stop this madness? Can we at least pick a color and make some bracelets? Are we really just going to continue business as usual and accept this? Maybe I'm part of the problem because I just sit here and rant about it on my blog.

Until the awareness and urgency about traffic behavior and transportation policy moves beyond the livable streets advocates and wonks, I'm afraid nothing will change.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Streets.mn explains how tactical urbanism helped transform a Twin Cities' street. Better Institutions looks at the quality of service provided by private airlines in the United States as a potential argument against transportation privatization. And Greater Greater Washington discusses the upsides and downsides of an effort to restrict sidewalk cycling in the D.C. area.

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