Blaming the Victim

While it’s great to see The Boston Globe finally acknowledge the terrible conditions for pedestrians in Boston, the way they did so was decidely interesting.

The Boston Police Department deserves to be called out in public for it’s callous approach to accidents involving pedestrians. According to the article, officers don’t want to fill out extra paperwork that would make pedestrian injury information more widely available — but it says that in most cities and towns, officers use the form the state wants them to fill out as the police report instead of filing two seperate reports. Boston Police also oppose businesses staying open later fore safety reasons, even though everyone and their mother knows that the city is most unsafe when businesses are closed and people aren’t around. As a cherry on top they also illegaly surveilled peaceful protestors during OccupyBoston and their union’s newsletter is racist. Clearly, they could be doing a lot better.

But in explaining the situation, The Globe reporter, Nestor Ramos, writes “By not reporting crashes to the state, the city may have missed out on grants and programs such as an innovative MassDOT effort to improve enforcement, awareness, and infrastructure for pedestrians and bicyclists.”

That seems to me like they’re blaming the pedestrians and cyclists for being hit by cars. It’s an impression that’s reinforced later in the article, when he writes that Central Square, Cambridge, is dangerous at rush hour because it’s “thick with pedestrians”.

I admit that, yes, sometimes a pedestrian or cyclist does something stupid or dangerous, but in my experience the problem is the car. Not a day goes by when I don’t see cars in Allston blowing red lights, turning through an intersection despite the presence of pedestrians, pulling out of a blind driveway at speed or stopping such that they occupy the crosswalk, forcing the pedestrians into the intersection.

Driver behavior is not made more bearable why the woefully inadequate walk singalling prevalent throughout the City. For example, the Harvard Ave and Commonwealth Ave intersection near me is always busy with pedestrians, cars and trolleys. As a healthy, 25-year old man I can just about make it across Comm Ave in the 20 seconds they give you to cross on a dry day. But when there’s ice or it’s wet, making the tracks slippery and filling the sides of the road with deep lakes, it can take up to a minute. And if you’re old or disabled or have some other isue with mobility? I guess you can’t cross the street ever.

Remember, if a pedestrian hits another pedrestrian, then mostly they only injure their dignity. A cyclist and a pedestrian is a bit worse, but usually not to serious. If a pedestrian hits a car, the pedestrian gets hurt and the car is probably unharmed. Pedestrians and cyclists are injured and killed when they get hit by cars. This is an indisputable fact and blaming the victim by ignoring the huge numbers of cars in Central Square or ignoring pedestrian injuries entirely completely misallocates valuable resources to tell people on foot stuff they already know, but not take steps to slow cars down.

(On a related note, I’ve been taking the 1 bus, which goes from Harvard top Dudley via Mass Ave, and I’ve come to the conclusion that that street would be ideal for a cycletrack.) 


One thought on “Blaming the Victim

  1. On a related note to your related note, I agree that Mass Ave would be great for a cycletrack, and one of the things I’ve been sketching out for fun is a way to add a light rail line (on a reservation) to the avenue. My preferred option thus far is to put the two tracks on the East side of the street, and keep two car lanes on the West side. Maybe the cycletrack can go between the tracks and the sidewalk, for potential future sidewalk expansion (at the expense of even more car capacity).

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