02

Blog

DOT Truck Smashes into House: Surprised?

Guest Post by Amy Johnson Ely, Executive Director of the Palmetto Cycling Coalition

On my way home from work last night, I passed by the site of a home adjacent to a 5 lane road in Columbia, that just had a work truck plow through its front door.  The truck entered the front room of a house.  This isn’t entirely news in Columbia.  Two years ago, another truck did the same to a house 1 mile away from this one, though across from MY house.  And there was a third a few years before that, at the same intersection.  I rub my eyes perplexed at the thought that this could one day, or might already be, one type of “normal” in this town I call home, where my husband and I choose to raise our 18 month old daughter.

A truck plows into a house.  Ah, no big deal. Happens all the time.

But this time, it’s an SCDOT work truck.

scdot-truck_3

[Photos: screen captured from WISTV broadcast in Columbia, SC.]

Actually, the street where the truck entered this guy’s living room yesterday – was designed for the crash.  Here’s how:  SCDOT widened this 2 lane road in 1969 to 5 lanes.  They put the outer lanes within 15 feet of the front doors of every house on both sides of Rosewood Drive.  Each lane is 12 feet wide with a 14 foot two-way-turn-lane in the middle.   Without burden, cars travel over 40mph easily.  SCDOT projected 18,000 cars a day would be at the site of the latest wreck by 1991, and the number now is about 20,000.  Federal safety guidance has changed since 1969, and they now recommend reducing the numbers of lanes to 3 on streets with this same amount of traffic.  Why?  Because it is safer.  And it easily makes room for bike lanes.  Another boon for safety.

It is 2016, and City of Columbia did a Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan that recommended Rosewood be reduced to 3 lanes, making room for bike infrastructure.  SCDOT has said no.

The one pedestrian refuge island on the entire street (it spans a few miles) was placed mid-block leading to the school’s entrance, but there are no other refuge islands on the street.  At this intersection is where the work truck ran a red light.  Most intersections are pushed out as wide as possible, so cars can speed around corners, though perhaps SCDOT knew this intersection needed special consideration because here the intersection radius is smaller and therefore safer, and right-on-red is restricted.  Yet still no refuge island.  With one mid-block island, no bike lanes, no sidewalk buffers, and few adequately painted crosswalks on the entire street (there are a few in front of the school), it is almost understandable why cars think they have the right of way versus pedestrians and bicyclists.

The street almost tells them that, yet the law doesn’t say that, exactly.  SCDOT needs to do so much more on the entire street.

To the north and south of Rosewood Drive are land uses almost entirely residential, though small local businesses line the actual edges of Rosewood Drive. And that is why we live here.  Except for the fast cars. Your environment influences your behavior in ways traffic cops burdened with traffic enforcement – don’t have enough hours in the day to convince you otherwise.  My daughter will go to Rosewood Elementary school in 4 years.

Three cars hit 3 houses in about the same number of years, within a mile of each other.  Please don’t let this be a “normal” of where I live.

I ride and walk my neighborhood all the time.  I moved here because all types of folks walk the sidewalk in front of my house, from all ethnic backgrounds, and many to and from the community park one block from my house.  This high diversity adds a huge value in my mind to my property and home and it comforts me.  I grew up around others like this, and in my lifetime went to and taught at schools with people of this same diversity in race and income.  It is normal to me.  The fine arts Magnet School I attended for 7 years had a quota to reflect the same racial makeup of its surrounding county.  This experience was just one of a lifetime of many that motivate me to discuss race openly, transparently, truthfully and with no fear.  I chose this home as my first home purchase for my family, because it feels like home.  I was also taught to value this.  I’m bothered by one race walking on the margins of roads, in conditions noticeably less safe – than those more often of a lighter complexion traveling down the middle of streets in the comfort of 2 tons of steel protection.  Very expensive steel protection.  We are taught to think of our streets as public, yet they are not.  Increasingly, they are not.  Our public spaces are being privatized.

Racial diversity feels normal to me.  Trucks or cars plowing into homes?  That is not normal to me.

For the past few years at work, the Palmetto Cycling Coalition has been analyzing some ugly statistics. Statistics on people in South Carolina seriously injured or killed by motor vehicles, while walking or riding bicycles.  Many interns later and then one fantastic Policy Fellow, Chris Clark, who took this analysis to an entirely higher level, and we have some summary stats that are one part disturbingly surprising, and one part ugly truth revealed that is no surprise at all.  In South Carolina:

  • We are 28% African American
  • 45% of pedestrian and bicycle injuries and fatalities are African American.
  • 70% of our roads are state owned
  • Approximately 95% of pedestrian and bicycle fatalities are on state owned roads, and approximately 85% of pedestrian and bicycle injuries are on state owned roads.
  • Our state has an unofficial policy that it will not fund pedestrian and bicycle accommodations on state owned roads.  It recommends them, but puts virtually no money towards them, relative to what it invests in space reserved for automobile traffic.  Understood is that pedestrian and bike accommodations are a local expense – yet still subject to state highway design.  State highway or street design remains persistently arcane and is documented as more dangerous to the safety of people on foot and bikes, than the modern urban design manuals.  This all occurs regardless of repeated attempts to improve that design, by the Palmetto Cycling Coalition and other local affiliated organizations – all working to improve the safety of all vulnerable road users, pedestrians and bicyclists, people on foot, bike, or on the way to a transit stop.

Rosewood Drive is a state owned road, with high crash rates for people on foot and bicycle.  The Rosewood neighborhood to the south of Rosewood Drive is a very diverse area.  The truck that entered the guy’s house on Rosewood Drive was an SCDOT work truck that didn’t see the light.  Because the road was designed for speed, not people.  I won’t move away from this great neighborhood.  Instead, I’ll make efforts to improve it.

Comments

Brendan Kevenides Jun 04, 2018

At sea a boat under power must give way to a more vulnerable craft.  The law requires that a power driven vessel give way to a sailing vessel.  A sail boat must give way to a craft engaged in fishing. These simple rules are consistent with the maxim that with greater power comes greater responsibility. […]

Read More
Commuter Bike
Bruce Hagen May 29, 2018

Recently, my wife and I moved into a new home that’s closer to my office, which has allowed me to start commuting by bike.  I rode my bike to and from my office 4 consecutive days before my schedule forced me back into the car. My hope and plan is to commute by bike at […]

Read More
Pat Brown May 10, 2018

Strength, ambition, and courage are just a few words that come to mind when we think of Anthony Lue.  Growing up, Anthony enjoyed playing competitive sports such as baseball, volleyball, basketball and mountain biking, but his true passion was discovered on his high school track.    After winning gold for 100m hurdles at the provincial championships […]

Read More
Lauri Boxer-Macomber Apr 30, 2018

Following a horrific bicycle crash in 2016, Dr. Michael Rifkin has become a new type of bicycling advocate — one who is deeply committed to ending distracted driving. Read his op-ed on Making Distracted Driving in Maine Taboo here. Dr. Rifkin’s piece reminds us that we can be distracted by our phones and other electronic devices even […]

Read More
Brian Weiss Apr 26, 2018

On November 21, 2017, I saw a TV news story about how the Broomfield District Attorney’s Office was routinely offering lax plea deals to drivers that injure cyclists.  In bicycle crash cases with injuries, the DA was offering plead deals to “broken headlight” or “defective vehicle” charges. A “defective vehicle” sentence is one of the […]

Read More
Atlanta's Bike Czar
Bruce Hagen Apr 19, 2018

Who is looking for a great job in a dynamic city with a great opportunity to make bicycle advocacy not just a passion, but a full time, rewarding and well-paying job?   The City of Atlanta is in search of a a new Chief Bicycle Officer to replace the outgoing CBO, Superstar Becky Katz, who after […]

Read More
Joe Piscitello Apr 04, 2018

Piscitello Law – Bike Law PA is pleased to share highlights from the third annual Vision Zero conference, held March 17 in West Philadelphia.  The event was hosted by Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition and opening remarks by the Executive Director Sarah Clark Stuart encouraged 250 participants to “listen, learn and be inspired….”   Mayor James Kenney […]

Read More
Lauri Boxer-Macomber Apr 03, 2018

The first issue is that many bicycle crashes are not being reported into the State of Maine Crash Database, which leads to incomplete and inaccurate state-wide crash reporting data and arguably also leads to uninformed priority setting and budgetary decisions.  The crashes that are unreported and/or underreported on a state level are sometimes, but not […]

Read More
Lauri Boxer-Macomber Mar 25, 2018

Foundational Principles Bicycles are Traffic and Belong on Maine’s Roadways In Maine, bicycle riders are included within the definition of “traffic” and should be treated as part of Maine’s traffic system.  See 29-A M.R.S.A. § 101 (82).   Rights and Responsibilities In general, a person riding a bicycle in Maine has all of the rights […]

Read More
Joe Piscitello Mar 20, 2018

Vision Zero (VZ) is multi-nation initiative with a guiding principle that death and serious injury should not be an acceptable outcome of transportation.  Vision Zero plans often draw attention to flaws within the transportation system such as dangerous traffic patterns, speeding and a lack of sufficient protected bike/pedestrian lanes.  VZ action plans utilize data to […]

Read More
Danny Feldman Mar 15, 2018

I will not pretend to speak for all cyclists, but I feel pretty confident in saying that being passed by cars on the road is a primary area of concern. Most of the time there is no problem and the vehicle passes safely. Nevertheless, I personally have been “buzzed” more times than I wish were […]

Read More
Bruce Hagen Mar 14, 2018

Georgia Bicycle Laws   I find myself in what some people might describe as an odd position.  As a lawyer, I represent people who have suffered injuries while riding bicycles due to the negligent actions of others, mainly car drivers.   However, as an advocate for safe cycling, I spend a lot of time trying to […]

Read More
Load More