Right of Way: Race, Class, and the Silent Epidemic of Pedestrian Deaths in America

Right of Way: Race, Class, and the Silent Epidemic of Pedestrian Deaths in America

Right of Way: Race, Class, and the Silent Epidemic of Pedestrian Deaths in America

Right of Way: Race, Class, and the Silent Epidemic of Pedestrian Deaths in America


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The face of the pedestrian safety crisis looks a lot like Ignacio Duarte-Rodriguez. The 77-year old grandfather was struck in a hit-and-run crash while trying to cross a high-speed, six-lane road without crosswalks near his son’s home in Phoenix, Arizona. He was one of the more than 6,000 people killed while walking in America in 2018. In the last ten years, there has been a 50 percent increase in pedestrian deaths.

The tragedy of traffic violence has barely registered with the media and wider culture. Disproportionately the victims are like Duarte-Rodriguez—immigrants, the poor, and people of color. They have largely been blamed and forgotten.

In Right of Way, journalist Angie Schmitt shows us that deaths like Duarte-Rodriguez’s are not unavoidable “accidents.” They don’t happen because of jaywalking or distracted walking. They are predictable, occurring in stark geographic patterns that tell a story about systemic inequality. These deaths are the forgotten faces of an increasingly urgent public-health crisis that we have the tools, but not the will, to solve. 

Schmitt examines the possible causes of the increase in pedestrian deaths as well as programs and movements that are beginning to respond to the epidemic. Her investigation unveils why pedestrians are dying—and she demands action.  Right of Way is a call to reframe the problem, acknowledge the role of racism and classism in the public response to these deaths, and energize advocacy around road safety. Ultimately, Schmitt argues that we need improvements in infrastructure and changes to policy to save lives.

Right of Way unveils a crisis that is rooted in both inequality and the undeterred reign of the automobile in our cities. It challenges us to imagine and demand safer and more equitable cities, where no one is expendable.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781642830835
Publisher: Island Press
Publication date: 08/27/2020
Pages: 248
Sales rank: 189,118
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Angie Schmitt is one of the country's best known writers and experts on the topic of sustainable transportation. She was the long-time national editor at Streetsblog. Her writing and commentary have appeared in the New York Times, The Atlantic, and National Public Radio. She is the founder and principal at 3MPH Planning and Consulting, a small firm focused on pedestrian safety. She lives in Cleveland with her husband and two children.

Table of Contents

Author's Note xi

Foreword Charles T. Brown xiii

Introduction: Outline of an Epidemic 1

Chapter 1 The Geography of Risk 17

Chapter 2 The Profile of a Victim 33

Chapter 3 Blaming the Victim 47

Chapter 4 The Criminalization of Walking 63

Chapter 5 Killer Cars 77

Chapter 6 The Ideology of Flow 99

Chapter 7 A Hard Right Turn 115

Chapter 8 Pedestrian Safety on the Technological Frontier 125

Chapter 9 The International Context 141

Chapter 10 Families for Safe Streets 157

Conclusion 173

Acknowledgments 181

Notes 183

About the Author 229

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