A pedestrian world: competing rationalities and the calculation of transportation change

In this paper I examine pedestrian motor-vehicle conflicts in US cities as competing forms of rationality based in particular values, techniques, and material forms. The kernel of dispute is the transportation engineers focus on traffic flow in allowing motor vehicles to move as efficiently as possible versus the pedestrian advocates desire for place as the intimate context of urban life. I consider the City of Oaklands Pedestrian Master Plan as a challenge to the mandate for traffic flow operationalized by the Transportation Research Boards Highway Capacity Manual. These values and techniques shape intersections, pedestrian crossings, street corners, and other taken-for-granted material forms in the urban built environment. Within the constraints of shared right-of-way, these competing rationalities are negotiated through spatial and temporal strategies that, historically, have resulted in the hierarchical ordering of the automobile over pedestrians in the US city. However, a growing emphasis on walking, bicycling, and public-transit-riding is reshaping the predominant values, techniques, and material forms to facilitate street design for multiple transportation modes. (A)


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  • Accession Number: 01060891
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Source Agency: Transport Research Laboratory
  • Files: ITRD
  • Created Date: Sep 10 2007 1:25PM