If you can’t get home, you don’t have a basic US freedom.
Johnnie Jermaine Rush had to walk home in the middle of the night, after a 13 hour shift at Cracker Barrel, and was stopped for walking “incorrectly.”
The following video shows how racism impacts urban planning, policy, and just the basic act of getting home from work.
Mr Rush was stopped for “jaywalking” in Europe “jaywalking” doesn’t exist. It exists in the US.
“The use of jaywalking as a term of ridicule against pedestrians crossing roads took off in the 1920s. In 1923 42,000 people in Cincinnati signed a petition to limit the speed of cars to 25mph. The petition failed, but the auto industry scrambled to shift the blame for pedestrian casualties from drivers to walkers.Local car firms got boy scouts to hand out cards to pedestrians explaining jaywalking,” –Aidan Lewis, BBC.
So that campaign combined with Jim Crow and Black Codes was the perfect storm to create a very racialized enforced law that overwhelmingly impacts African-Americans across that nation and is further exasperated by class and lack of investments in multi-modality transportation and urban planning that is poorly designed owing to possibly ignorance, but most probably insincerity and keeps people isolated.
(There is no “jaywalking” law in NJ, as long as you cross perpendicular and there are no cars, you can cross wherever you want.)
The “choices” Johnnie Jermaine Rush had to get him home were to wait until the 5 a.m. , because the last kind of public transit option would have been a train that left at 11:25 p.m.
Those of us who have worked in the restaurant business at any point in our lives know that getting out in less than 45 minutes at a Cracker Barrel that closes at 11 p.m. would have been a pretty amazing feat.
To catch that last train customers would have to be gone by 10:30 p.m., if he is working a 13 hour shift they had customers, so a 10:30 p.m. quitting time with 15 minute clean up and a sprint to the train as best case scenario was not happening.
So after a 13 hour shift he attempts to walk home, he makes it to Biltmore Avenue and Short Coxe. And Black men from Los Angeles to New York are never going to be able to walk home without the police terrorizing them. This is community policy, not police policy, but community policy.
Mr. Rush should have been able to get home. He should have an option other than walking after working 13 hours. He should have been able to take a train, a bus, his bike, anything and if he chose to walk, he should have been able to do it without police interference.
There should not be a stop and terrorize policy still on the books in any US city, especially since virtually all those laws are based not in safety, but on terrorizing (I say terrorizing not harassing, because that doesn’t properly describe the spirit) Black and Latinx people just trying to make it home.
Everyone should be able to get home from work. Everyone should have a choice to walk or bicycle home from work without ending up degraded, in jail, or in the hospital.
This is why the work we do are important. That area needs a Complete Streets Plan and to move away from a plan that actively isolates and disenfranchises the African-American community from the rest of the town of Asheville.
(Approximately where Mr. Rush was stopped. Notice the four lanes with no median road design, one of the most deadly road configurations that exist. )
On February 8, Jersey City became the first New Jersey municipality to say through action it is no longer accepting death by car crash as part of its citizens lives by the adoption Vision Zero.
“In most road transport systems, road users bear complete responsibility for safety. Vision Zero changes this relationship by emphasizing that responsibility is shared by transportation system designers and road users,” from a paper presented by Ingvall and Haworth at the 2016 6th International Road Safety & Traffic Enforcement Conference.
New Jersey’s Toward Zero Death street safety policy is not working. In 2017 overall death of pedestrians by car crash was at a three year high. People are continuing to die on New Jersey roads. They are dying, because in New Jersey we accept crashes as accidents. We accept policy based on the faulty idea that death from crashes is about bad personal choice and not about bad engineering and bad data.
Vision Zero does not accept that some people have to die, so that some people can get to where they are going in in their cars slightly faster. Vision Zero emphasizes infrastructure and education.
If we want a New Jersey that has Complete Streets, streets that all people can use regardless of ability, race, age, or mode of modality of the user, we have to have streets that are just and fair. We must have street design and technology that supports fair and just streets. We must have cycle tracks (protected bike lanes), safe crosswalks, and pedestrian plazas. We also need reduced speed limits and good public transit. Finally we must have good public policy. The police have to stop being the sole tool used in African-American and Latino communities for traffic safety. It is bad and lazy policy.
In African-American and Latino communities street design, technology, and systematic change is historically not prioritized. In these communities safety in regards to urban planning and transportation is put almost exclusively on the individual through police via punitive individual consequences.
For communities of color the police have been a huge part of enforcement in regards to safe streets policy and in many communities of color they have been the only component of safe streets policy.
Vision Zero is a chance to turn the tide against punitive enforcements on communities of color. Vision Zero is a chance to make real fundamental change to the infrastructure of all communities.
Vision Zero began in Sweden in 1997. In Sweden getting to work as quickly as possible is no longer prioritized over safety.
In 2014 Vision Zero came to the US via New York. In 2014 New York City had the fewest pedestrian deaths in its recorded history.
In 2014 New York reformed Stop-and-Frisk a policy to harass and terrorize pedestrians that overwhelmingly impacted African-American men.
In 2013 191,558 people were stopped owing to Stop-and-Frisk. 56% African-American 29% Latino. 88% innocent.
In 2014 45,787 were stopped owing to Stop-and-Frisk. 53% African-American. 27% Latino. 82% innocent.
The harassment of people because of their race does not make streets safer. Fixing infrastructure and good policy does. In 2017 New York City allocated $400 million for Complete Street infrastructure owing to Vision Zero.
Vision Zero cannot just be for predominantly white and middle class communities.
Vision Zero needs to continue to be embraced equitably as it was intended with the four principles Vision Zero adopted from the World Health Organization:
- Ethics: Human life and health are paramount and take priority over mobility and other objectives of the road traffic system
- Responsibility: providers and regulators of the road traffic system share responsibility with users;
- Safety: road traffic systems should take account of human fallibility and minimize both the opportunities for errors and the harm done when they occur; and
- Mechanisms for change: providers and regulators must do their utmost to guarantee the safety of all citizens; they must cooperate with road users; and all three must be ready to change to achieve safety.
Infrastructure, technology, and smart policy are all keys to the success of Vision Zero.
Vision Zero was about equity in its inception and it needs to continue to be about equity in New Jersey. Policies are only as fair and just as the people implementing and interpreting those policies.
People in bicycle/pedestrian advocacy, urban planning, social justice, and public health need to continue to be in the conversation for Vision Zero and continue to push the conversation on topics like racism, which so much bad transportation policy in New Jersey and around the United States is based on.
Vision Zero is about not accepting a little bit of death or a little bit of racism, just so some people can get to where they are going a little bit faster.
by Lark Lo
(This is modified from my Transportation Alternative May 2017 column.)
I want comfort when I’m walking and cycling on our city streets. I am raising the bar and changing the narrative of the conversation on our streets. Our streets should not just be safe. Safe is just a beginning. Streets should not only be safe, but comfortable.
When I am walking around town, I trip over broken sidewalks. I run across streets, because I don’t want to be crushed by vehicles. On my bicycle I have to be vigilant. I have watch out for potholes, look out for people opening their car doors, and be shrieked at by people driving their car, because I prefer to not go the long way and instead choose to ride where people can see me, which is not always on the “safer” side streets.
When I discuss these concerns with policy makers the conversation often gets turned into, “Do you wear a helmet? Do you use the crosswalk, because you know crosswalks and helmets are important?”
It becomes a lecture on street safety in regards to only people not in cars. The onus of the safety of the roads that I pay for with my tax dollars becomes reduced to, “Are you following the rules, so people can drive in comfort?”
There is no concern for the comfort of pedestrians.
There is no concern for the comfort of bicyclists.
It is an expectation in these conversations that if you’re not in your car that it is dangerous and that of course you will be uncomfortable.
My comfort on the street is not a concern. A comfortable drive in your car is an expectation. A comfortable bicycle ride or walk — that is entitlement.
I am no longer discussing what I do to protect myself with people who have car-centric views.
Safe is a low bar in regards to our urban and suburban streets. I should not have to beg for my life, because I am not traveling by car.
I expect safety. We all should expect at the bare minimum safety when we are doing such mundane tasks as going to the grocery store or going to work.
I want comfort.
I do not feel comfortable or safe going the long way. I do not feel comfortable with putting on a reflective vest, a helmet, and having a GoPro attached to my bicycle just because there is an accepted expectation that not being in your car is dangerous.
I do not want just safety. I want comfort. I want comfortable roads to ride my bicycle on. I want comfortable sidewalks to walk on. I want people in wheelchairs and with mobility issues to be able to casually go to the park and I want their trips to the park to be as pleasant as the park itself.
I want what people in cars have. I want a smooth and comfortable ride. I want a luxurious walk to the park.
Consumer Reports stated this regarding cars:
“You want the ride to be pleasant and not torture for your body….Discomfort or even a bumpy, noisy ride can make the drive very unpleasant.”
When I’m walking around I don’t want to feel discomfort, because absolutely zero consideration was made of pedestrians and cyclists when a street was designed, when a plan was approved, and when the money for transportation was divvied up.
I want comfort and luxury not just for the streets in communities that have the most development, but in communities that have the most people walking and riding in them. I want luxury and comfort in communities with the highest amount of death and injuries owing to crashes.
Safe as a measuring stick is clearly is not good enough.
At least I didn’t die getting home isn’t good enough anymore.
We need our streets to be comfortable not just for people in cars, but for people who choose to not get around by car and for people who have no choice, but to get around on foot, with a wheelchair, by public transit, and by bicycle.
by Lark Lo
Earlier in the week VELO Bloomfield went to Urban Cyclery to celebrate the opening of a positive thing going on the Essex community of East Orange. Urban Cyclery is owned by Osceola Hansen a East Orange native and just an all around great guy, because not only does he have a shop he supports Black and Latinx teenagers (the demographic that there are few programs for) in the bicycle rides that the teenagers put on called Ride-Outs.
While cycling has gotten more popular, so has racism. The rules for Black and Latinx young people having fun seems to differ greatly in comparison to everyone else.
On Saturday, January 27 a bicycle ride in East Orange that was organized for the local kids. This event was advertised via social media, Urban Cyclery, and VELO Bloomfield. Someone else decided to invite themselves, the East Orange Police Department spent the morning shadowing, stalking, and harassing the kids for being kids.
Kids on bikes from East Orange, Long Branch, and Newark were harassed just for being on bicycles.
“Cops say that we have to follow the same rules as motorcycles and if they don’t take your bike or they’ll walk you out of town,” said a young cyclist from Long Branch.
The police presence was intimidating. This event was a group of kids on their bikes with their grandmothers, parents, and little sisters. I’m confused as to why the police came down on this ride like it was an Apocalyptic Outlaw Motorcycle Gang that was pillaging the local countryside.
“Seems like bike lanes and cycling are just for rich people,” said another young person from Long Branch.
A woman there with her granddaughter said the Elmwood Park in East Orange, does not allow bikes.
Meanwhile the cops on the scene said the kids should not be riding on the sidewalk, but then began ticketing kids for riding in the street (while popping wheelies). So effectively, there was nowhere for them to bike.
“The boys take great pride in their bikes. They maintain them, keep them clean, and have a lot of bike knowledge,” said a woman at the ride.
One boy overheard and agreed. I took a pic with him and his bike labelled “Proud of his bike.” He was from the neighborhood East Orange.
A man who said he had been biking all morning in other towns, in town likes West Orange, towns that are whiter, kids were popping were given applause. He also said they had bike trails.
“The police at the [ride] were ridiculous. People always want to talk about community policing and this isn’t community policing. Kicking kids off the sidewalk, writing them tickets, arresting the kid for ‘talking back’ or ‘not listening.’ If they really wanted to do community policing, they should offer to escort the group on the ride. Create an area for kids to ride bikes. East Orange PD gives away bikes every year, but then gives the kids no place to ride,” said Mike.
Eventually the ride happened and people had fun, but a kid should be able to ride their bicycle without risk of arrest and harassment by the police in their own neighborhood.
By Halashon Sianipar
edited by Lark Lo
halashon rides a bike regularly as transportation. interested in collective power, self expression, self determination. mc, organizer, mathematician living in newark.