On Friday, David Brooks had an unfortunate bit of victim-blaming in a column about risk in society:
More pedestrians die in crosswalks than when jay-walking. That’s because they have a false sense of security in crosswalks and are less likely to look both ways.
People on foot die in crosswalks when people in cars and trucks drive at lethal speeds in crosswalks when they shouldn't. It's that simple.
A few weeks ago, I addressed Brooks's suggestion that it's up to pedestrians to exercise more vigilance. If you put the primary burden of safely crossing the street on pedestrians, the only pedestrians you'll have are those comfortable with risk, the rest will go by car.
If pedestrians have a "false sense of security," the answer isn't to make pedestrians more nervous. The answer is to make the sense of security less false.
There is no public policy reason for traffic going faster than 20 MPH in any single place in Newton where we want pedestrians to cross the street. None. If we changed the street geometry such that the 85th percentile speed was 20 MPH just before each crosswalk, the likelihood of a fatal accident would approach zero. At 20 MPH, a driver is much more likely to see a pedestrian. At 20 MPH, the distance required to stop safely is very short. At 20 MPH, the likelihood that a pedestrian will die after being hit is in the low single digits.