No Accident: Urban Design & Motor Vehicle Violence

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A presentation by Aaron Naparstek, delivered at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design

If you ever want to kill someone New York or just about any other American city, use a car as your weapon. As long as you are sober, licensed and do not flee the scene of the "accident," it is virtually guaranteed that you will get away with murder. Around the world, 1.3 million people die in road traffic crashes and 20 to 50 million more are injured each year. It is a massive global health crisis that, for the most part, we ignore. Streetsblog founder and Harvard Loeb Fellow Aaron Naparstek discusses emerging new perspectives on motor vehicle violence and the critical role that urban planners, designers, police and public health practitioners must play in solving the problem.

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  • When I was 15, first time I got behind the wheel of a car for my first driver’s license, the first thing my dad told me is that “a car is a weapon.” He wouldn’t let me start the engine until I repeated that back to him. Unfortunately, our police, press, politicians and popular culture seem to have a very different view of this than my father. Thanks to the work of a crusading attorney named SteveVaccaro we are starting to get a much clearer view of how the NYPD views motor vehicle deaths on NYC streets. I believe this will soon be considered a major scandal.
  • No Accident: Urban Design & Motor Vehicle Violence

    1. 1. Header No Accident Design for a Safe,Healthy, Sustainable City Caption Aaron Naparstek
    2. 2. Superman Declares War on Reckless Drivers Action Comics #12, May 1939
    3. 3. Superman Declares War on Reckless Drivers Action Comics #12, May 1939
    4. 4. Superman Declares War on Reckless Drivers Action Comics #12, May 1939
    5. 5. Superman Declares War on Reckless Drivers Action Comics #12, May 1939
    6. 6. Superman Declares War on Reckless Drivers Action Comics #12, May 1939
    7. 7. Superman Declares War on Reckless Drivers Action Comics #12, May 1939
    8. 8. Superman Declares War on Reckless Drivers Action Comics #12, May 1939
    9. 9. Superman Declares War on Reckless Drivers Action Comics #12, May 1939
    10. 10. Superman Declares War on Reckless Drivers Action Comics #12, May 1939
    11. 11. Superman Declares War on Reckless Drivers Action Comics #12, May 1939
    12. 12. Superman Declares War on Reckless Drivers Action Comics #12, May 1939
    13. 13. The 2011 Dodge Charger: Watch out Metropolis!
    14. 14. Accidents happen.
    15. 15. This is the indicator species of a healthy urban habitat.
    16. 16. Designers have a major role to play in solving the problem.
    17. 17. Is it really still an “accident” when you run someone over intentionally? intentionally accident accident
    18. 18. We weren’t always so blasé about “accidents.” The Brooklyn Death-o-Meter, 1927.
    19. 19. A 3,000 percent increase in U.S. auto fatalities from 1901 to 1923. Source: Peter Norton, “Fighting Traffic.”
    20. 20. Most of the people being killed by cars were pedestrians. City of Philadelphia, 1928. Source: Peter Norton, “Fighting Traffic.”
    21. 21. And most of those pedestrian fatalities were children. Source: Peter Norton, “Fighting Traffic.”
    22. 22. City streets weren’t always the sole domain of motor vehicles. Mulberry Street, Manhattan’s Lower East Side, circa 1900. Source: Library of Congress Photocrom Collection
    23. 23. “Blood, grief and anger in the American city… a violent revolution.” Memorial to Child “Accident” Victims. Baltimore, Maryland, 1922. Source: Peter Norton, “Fighting Traffic.”
    24. 24. 1.3 million peopledie each yearas a result of roadtraffic crashes.
    25. 25. 1.3 million peopledie each yearas a result of roadtraffic crashes.20 to 50 millionmore people suffernon-fatal injuries.
    26. 26. Traffic crashes arethe leading cause ofdeath among youngpeople, ages 15-29.
    27. 27. Over 90% of fatalities occur in poorercountries though they own less than half ofthe worlds cars.Poor Country Rich Country
    28. 28. Nearly half of fatalitiesare pedestrians,cyclists andmotorcyclists.
    29. 29. The number of U.S. soldiers killed in the Korean war, 1950-2010 1953.33,000U.S. RoadFatalities
    30. 30. A September 11th once a month.201033,000U.S. RoadFatalities
    31. 31. 201033,000U.S. RoadFatalities A pair of 747’s crashing each week.
    32. 32. 2010 A daily death toll33,000 equal to all of theU.S. Road people in this roomFatalities
    33. 33. The aftermath of a bike “accident” in New York City.
    34. 34. The aftermath of a bike “accident” in New York City.
    35. 35. The aftermath of a bike “accident” in New York City.
    36. 36. “No criminality suspected.”
    37. 37. Crane Topples in Manhattan, Killing at Least 4 People. “This is an absolute disgrace. We need better inspection and more resources.” -- Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.
    38. 38. My grandparents: Clara and Abe Naparstek
    39. 39. An car is a weapon.
    40. 40. Blaming the victim: The Matthieu Lefevre case. Caption
    41. 41. “All we know is what we have read in the papers” Matthieu’s mother, Erika Lefevre.
    42. 42. Security camera footage.You can just make out Matthieu Lefevre’s bike at the very top left.
    43. 43. The Lefevre case is not unique. Marilyn DershowitzAileen McKay-Dalton Michele MatsonMargaret Myers Dashane Santana Stefanos Tsigrimanis Rasha Shamoon
    44. 44. 4-year-old A.J. Nelson: Killed by bad urban design? Marietta, Georgia, April 10, 2011
    45. 45. The good news: Urban designers are saving lives.30% reduction in trafficfatalities from 2001 to 2010 in NYC.
    46. 46. The good news: Urban designers are saving lives. Brooklyn’s Prospect Park West
    47. 47. The good news: Urban designers are saving lives.Before Ninth Avenue redesign: Reduced injuries to all users by 56%After
    48. 48. Sweden’s Vision Zero: We know how to solve this problem.
    49. 49. It’s all about speed.
    50. 50. Conclusion: Save Metropolis. Be a Super Designer.

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