How did pedestrians become an endangered species in the United States—and why is the word “pedestrian” wrong anyway? First in a four-part series:
A few years ago, at a highway safety conference in Savannah, Ga., I drifted into a conference room where a sign told me a ‘Pedestrian Safety’ panel was being held.
The speaker was Michael Ronkin, a French-born, Swiss-raised, Oregon-based transportation planner whose firm, as his website notes, ‘specializes in creating walkable and bikeable streets.’ Ronkin began with a simple observation that has stayed with me since. Taking stock of the event—one of the few focused on walking, which gets scant attention at traffic safety conferences—he wondered about that inescapable word: pedestrian. If we were to find ourselves out hiking on a forest trail and spied someone approaching at a distance, he wanted to know, would we think to ourselves, ‘Here comes a pedestrian’?