Wednesday, March 25, 2009

"Street code": A World Streets Campaign for 2009

The Highway Code: a collection of laws, advice and best practice for all road users, which mainly functions as a written basis for learning to drive as well as stipulating the letter of the law (licensing, required safety equipment, default rules, etc.) In Europe this happens at a national level, with room in some places for stricter local ordinances. In the US mainly a state prerogative. In all cases the code itself is the creature of the automotive age and is primarily concerned with defining the role and characteristics of motor vehicle driver and owner behavior.

Many European cities are of late starting to advance on the idea of establishing a far tougher "street codes", specifically adapted to the special and more demanding conditions of driving in city traffic. This is becoming especially important as we start to see a much greater mix of vehicles, speeds and people on the street. If streets are for cars, well this is probably not a priority. But if they are "public spaces" and open to the full range of uses and users, then perhaps something along these lines is called for.

The idea is works is that legal responsibility for any accident on street, sidewalk or public space, is automatically assigned to the heavier faster vehicle. This means that the driver who hits a cyclist has to prove his innocence, as opposed to today where the cyclist must prove the driver's guilt (not always very easy to do).

This is not quite as good as John Adams' magnificent 1995 formulation whereby every steering wheel of every car , truck and bus would be equipped with a large sharp nail aimed directly at the driver’s heart-- but it can at least help getting things moving in the right direction.

We propose to make this a major campaign theme of World Streets in 2009 and invite our readers to submit their reports, ideas and comments over the course of the months ahead.

If you look over toward the top of the left menu here, you will see that we have opened up a reader poll in an attempt to get your views as well. We also invite comment here on the results.

The editor

References:
Livable Streets discussions of Street Code
What is Street Code? (Thanks for use of your graphic)
Code de la rue - Belgium (Use Translate here as needed)
Code de la rue - France
Code de la rue - Wikipedia

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