Thanks to each of you who were able to join in last Wednesday’s Ride and Walk of Silence. I have just slightly reworked the comments I made that night and they appear below.
Gatherings just like ours are took place across the world on May 16. They are all part of an international acknowledgement of people on bikes and people on foot that we have all lost or have been injured on our roadways.
For decades, societies have designed, built and maintained roadway systems that are preferential to the motorized vehicles. While we may appreciate this attention to cars while driving them, this decision has come at an enormous cost.
Roadways foster car travel that is fast, seamless and too often without regard that sharing the road with those that are far more vulnerable is a key element of a civilized society.
Roads should connect us as social beings. Roads should build community and make it not only easy, but enjoyable for people of all ages and abilities to connect – to each other, to our jobs, to our places of education, to our civic centers and libraries. The veins and arteries of our communities should enable an 8-year old and an 80-year old to safely navigate from one place to another on foot and on bike. People of all economic levels should be able to access by walking or biking fresh produce and life’s basic necessities.
People should not have to jump into a single passenger vehicle to meet their needs.
When we build communities in which ownership of an automobile becomes a necessity we, by default, agree to decrease our health and that of our communities and our environment.
When we design our roads such that driving in excess of 20 mph in our communities is acceptable, we marginalize the innate ability of virtually all of us to safely move, powered by our own physical ability, from one place to another. We have overtly dehumanized the places we live, work and play.
But let’s be honest. It’s not just about how we design our roads. It’s the behavior of too many users of our roads that is responsible for many of the lives we are honoring tonight. Driving has become a cavalier experience for us. People do all sorts of other things while driving. Talking or texting on cell phones, eating, sorting through CDs, putting on make up. NONE of these activities belongs with driving. Ever.
And especially, driving under any influence should be something none of us should allow. And it should be punishable by the most severe sentences.
Pledge today to not be tempted to be distracted while driving. Pledge to take the initiative to tell others why it is imperative they adopt this same rigid commitment. Crashes on our roads unfortunately will continue. But we can commit to minimizing them by focusing on what we are meant to focus on while operating a vehicle: being aware of others on the road and prioritizing the most vulnerable: pedestrians and cyclists.
Some of you joined us on May 3 for the kick-off of a Safe Roads for All Campaign with MODOT and Metro. We intend to work with these agencies to set targets and measureable improvements to assure the number of injuries and fatalities decreases with every passing day.
We want to INCREASE safety for walkers and cyclists and know that when this happens, more people will use their feet and pedals to move about our region. And we know from studies, that the more people walking and cycling, the safer roads are for ALL users. Safety and safe practices build on themselves.
With your support and partnership, we will continue to advocate for and bring awareness to the need for both safer roads and improved driver awareness of all road users.
We brought cards to the Ride and Walk of Silence that convey simple but powerful messages that each road user wants other road users to know and obey. They are posted on our website here. There is a link at the bottom of each list so that you can download and print them. Help us by using and distributing them!
The walk and ride were taken in silence. Upon our return to the St. Louis site, the Missouri History Museum, people were invited to stay and continue talking and sharing stories and memories.