Transportation Ethics: The Trafficist

For those not familiar, Randy Cohen writes an advice column for the NY Times magazine on day-to-day ethical issues that people face, like what to do when some local fifth graders destroy your neighborhood organic garden or if you should not order food delivery in dangerous weather conditions.

The Open Planning Project’s Executive Director Mark Gorton recently interviewed Mr. Cohen on the ethics of urban automobility for Streetfilms. The result has been condensed here into a 9 minute talk that touches on a multitude of topics ranging from Congestion Pricing to Parking Policy in NYC. While this focuses on NYC, the discussion could apply to many of urban centers and the conflicts between different users of public space.

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I think it would help develop empathy in drivers if they took a day once in a while and walked, or walk/bus, basically got out of their iron steeds for a bit.....

I don't know, I mostly walk everywhere but when I do drive it transforms me. It's so much fun to go fast and drive aggressively. Who wouldn't agree with that?

But yes, it does make you feel a little guilty if you slide through a crosswalk without yielding properly. Actually, I've seen nice drivers yield at a cross walk and get rear ended - then get yelled at by the other driver!

The best way to tame the drivers is more pedestrians. I actually felt a little sorry for a driver coming out of a building's garage and not being able to cross the sidewalk because all the pedestrians weren't yielding to let him through (and there were no traffic control devices). Maybe in NY they just nudge through the crowd, but here the drivers just look perplexed.

Dino I know what you mean, I can think of two guys at crosswalks who had to jump when I was learning to drive. ... funny that this didn't happen when I was first riding a moped/scooter.

I also went car-free in Sunnyvale CA for a few months, it was funny because riding a bike, people see ME. They see my body, my face, etc and people got to know me and were friendlier, remarkable in the cold Silicon Valley "culture".

NYC has got to be a gas. I forward the reader here to bicycle messenger videos you can find on YouTube for an idea of NYC vehicular/pedestrian culture, it's just gotta be wild. The videos of a Lucas Brunelle are very gonzo, but any bike messenger stuff is interesting. There's a certain flow of vehicle, bikes, and pedestrians that's amazing to watch.

There's something about being in a huge metal box with tons of power that will always instil some power-drunkenness, but in settled societies this is always moderated.

People tune out when arguments like these are couched in uber intellectual language.

This discussion made plenty of sense to me.

However, it is true that this kind of discussion is primarily persuasive only to those who already agree with it.

Those who radically disagree, or who are not yet ready to consider anything other than an auto-centric lifestyle will be uninterested.

Even so, it is good to have this kind of thing available for those who are ready to hear it!

Great job on the interview.

True stuff.

The interview was good in content but would have been more influential with a sceptical interviewer playing devil's advocate and teasing out counter arguments to common perceptions. In the end it sounded like two mates chatting about something they both believe in. Maybe the two could have been interviewed by an impartial? It read more like a religious indoctrination video and most car addicts won't like that.