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Right of Way: Race, Class, and the Silent Epidemic of Pedestrian Deaths in America

4.41  ·  Rating details ·  162 ratings  ·  41 reviews
The face of the pedestrian safety crisis looks a lot like Ignacio Duarte-Rodriguez. The 77-year old grandfather was struck in a hit-and-run crash while trying to cross a high-speed, six-lane road without crosswalks near his son’s home in Phoenix, Arizona. He was one of the more than 6,000 people killed while walking in America in 2018. In the last ten years, there has been ...more
Paperback, 248 pages
Published August 27th 2020 by Island Press
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 ·  162 ratings  ·  41 reviews

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Start your review of Right of Way: Race, Class, and the Silent Epidemic of Pedestrian Deaths in America
Aug 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
As someone involved in this advocacy, and as a follower of Schmitt on Twitter, there wasn't much new here for me. However, I really appreciate the research and documentation, especially around automotive design and technological developments. ...more
Dec 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: new, streets
A must read for every American, particular those who drive and think traffic deaths are “just accidents” and bound to happen.” Schmidt does a Herculean job of collecting heartbreaking stories of pedestrians killed from all regions in the US. I can’t help but cry, repeatedly, reading this book — as all of these deaths are so senseless, preventable and utterly tragic. Having been a part of the safe streets movement in NYC for the last five years, I’ve followed many of these stories as they happene ...more
Matt Stevens
Sep 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book. But I'm the choir, in the preaching to the choir. I'm an avid bike rider on my city's transportation commission and actively engaged in changing how my city thinks about pedestrians. Moreover, my city (and to a lesser extent) my county is already going down the path to a Vision Zero existence. That is a good thing. So, I guess, this a book that needs to get into the hands of policy makers and policy maker assistants that don't understand the crisis we're in. But, I don't see ...more
Lee Batdorff
Sep 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing

Horror begins Angie Schmitt’s Right of Way. Eleven pedestrians are killed by motor vehicles during a seven-day-period in Phoenix Arizona. Late Ignacio Duarte-Rodriguez, 77-years-old, was killed by a hit-and-run driver, one of three people dying in recent years trying to cross a particular stretch of a six lane road.

Horror grows: Rodriguez’s son, Felipe Duarte, pleaded with the city to have a designated crosswalk installed in the middle of a ten city-block-long stretch
LaShel Shaw
Sep 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
I found this while (virtually) stack browsing and went in not knowing anything about the subject matter. Wow. I've had my share of terrifying experiences as a pedestrian but never realized how intentionally our western cities and towns prioritize the comfort and convenience of drivers over the lives of those who are on foot. ...more
Jan 23, 2021 rated it really liked it
As someone who has spent years of my adult life traveling by foot, train, bus, and bike in a city dominated by cars, I found "Right of Way" a compelling argument for policies prioritizing pedestrian safety.

I learned the most new information—and got the most angry—reading the chapter “Pedestrian Safety on the Technological Frontier.” Schmitt lays out the massive and unregulated landscape of automobile technology (most notably self-driving cars) alongside the devastating human costs—the death of
Jan 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A must read for city planners, traffic engineers, and anyone with a stake in making our streets more humane, healthy, and sustainable. Angie Schmitt brings the data, best practices, case studies, policies, and most importantly, the personal stories of tragedy that have resulted from prioritizing drivers over pedestrians.

Americans as whole have become so inured to a vehicle-dominated landscape that it's hard to imagine an alternative. This lack of imagination is exacerbated by low levels of trav
Jan 24, 2021 rated it really liked it
Angie pulls back the curtain on America's pedestrian safety crisis which is more grim than many realize. The content is very current and even considers some of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on commuting habits. This book should be required reading for every public official responsible for local transportation decisions. As someone who has long been passionate about urban issues and transportation, much of the information in this book was not new to me. ...more
Nov 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
A report of sorts on the state of pedestrian safety in the United States, taking the perspective of traffic deaths & injuries as a public health crisis. Discusses the auto-centric mindset that pervades transportation decision making. I would have liked if the section about the media's influences on our perception of pedestrian traffic deaths were longer. I wish there had been more detail about the history of the term "Jaywalking", and more about how views on the appropriate use of streets change ...more
Oct 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Preaching to the choir here, but Schmitt's framing is extremely useful for understanding just how deep car culture goes. Everyone should read this, especially my city council members! ...more
Matt Lechel
Jan 29, 2021 rated it it was amazing
An infuriating read. Angie Schmitt’s book puts into words (and backs with citations) the experience many of us feel when simply going for a walk. I know the plague of automobile violence has been felt greatly in my town kalamazoo, mi. From tragic events that made global news like: the ‘Uber shooter’ who drove wildly thru kalamazoo for hours on a shooting spree.. picking up Uber rides in between murders, to the bike tragedy, one of the largest traffic violence crashes involving bike riders in rec ...more
Aug 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Angie Schmitt explores the many causes of a rapid rise in pedestrian deaths in American cities. Her new book is a must-read for people interested in mobility justice. Review here:
Oct 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: actual-books
A weird pick for "books you enjoyed so much you're sad you've finished," but there you have it. I really liked this book.

This book was released at a weird time. Written in late 2019, it missed the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and thus, it doesn't cover the sudden explosion in walking and biking that has taken place nationwide, although she does discuss this gap in the intro. (The pandemic does seem to have changed some things for the better - I've seen videos on Twitter from NYC in the past f
Sep 23, 2020 rated it liked it
This is a good overview of the current pedestrian safety crisis in the United States (and to a lesser extent, the developing world). I'd recommend it as a good primer on the subject, especially for people who have no background in or knowledge of any of these horrific trends.

My main issue with the book deals with the writing and editing. The author is a journalist, and each chapter feels very much like a disjunct long-form news article, rather than a connected chapter typing together broader arg
Dan Castrigano
Jan 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
Really great. It's like a long essay with terrific sources documenting how cars are the worst things ever. I learned about the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) and its flaws. I learned about Bill Schultheiss and his work trying to flip the MUTCD on its head. I also appreciated the stats on increased horsepower in cars over time. Simply mind-boggling and simply unnecessary. I also regularly think about what Angie said on Twitter about "toxic individuality." Or my other favorite: ...more
Michael Lewyn
Sep 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Over the past decade, the number of pedestrians killed by automobiles has increased by 50 percent; by contrast, in Europe pedestrian death rates have actually gone down by 36 percent. What went wrong?
This book outlines the causes of the problem, including:
*Demographic change. Large Sun Belt cities like Phoenix and Tampa are the most dangerous for pedestrians, because they have the most wide, speeding-friendly roads. (Where traffic is fast, a collision is more likely to be fatal than in a place w
Jan 30, 2021 rated it really liked it
Packed into this slender volume is a smart and compelling argument for entirely reframing how we view the use of streets. Schmitt deftly balances a data driven argument for redesigning roadways, slowing vehicles, driving smaller/lighter cars, and slowing traffic with intimate and heart-wrenching personal stories about the victims of traffic violence (crashes, not accidents are a pandemic on our streets).

Though many efforts to slow or remove cars are focused on dense downtowns from big cities to
Oct 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is very timely. In the past few months, there has been a new campaign in the city of New Haven, CT encouraging drivers to slow down. While no new mandatory speed limit reductions have been put in place, the campaign has asked drivers to voluntarily slow their speed to 20 from the stated 30 miles per hour: "20 is plenty". ...more
Jan 22, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2021-reads
Good and comprehensive info on pedestrian safety (from culture changes to tech changes). A little bit too dramatized for my liking, with not just the anecdotes that opened each chapter but the attitude around “blame”. Idk if I should take issue with this though considering there are way too many deaths and there should be blame cast at governments and corporations!
Jan 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
As a non-planner nor engineer, I think this book should be required reading for anyone getting behind the wheel of a car. While recognizing there are large policy shifts needed, this book identifies ways individuals can make changes in their cities by widening their views on who the roadways are for.
James Hassell
Feb 14, 2021 rated it really liked it
Angie Schmitt makes a compelling case for us to reframe how Americans think about cars. It’s refreshing to see proposed solutions which are low hanging fruit. I will admit that I got riled up every time I picked up this book to read and felt motivated to just start painting cross walks where I thought would help. I would highly recommend this to anyone interested.
Emily Parkany
Feb 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is very good. Lots of stats, moving anecdotes, potential ways to address pedestrian fatalities. I’m a traffic engineer with a safety interest and I didn’t realize the extent of ped deaths. Really worth a read and good for generating discussion. Not really a social justice book but it’s a provocative addition to the genre.
David Shelton
Oct 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Great current book on Pedestrian deaths in America. She actually includes a chapter on international issues as well. The book is packed with stories and information and is a quick read. I would recommend to anyone interested in the topic.
Nov 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Excellent book about an important and ignored problem. A few copy editing issues in this first edition that I’m sure Angie will iron out. I want everyone on my city’s Vision Zero and Public Works teams to read this ASAP. Then, perhaps we can all get serious about reforms.
Feb 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: planning, ebook
Fascinating book. Totally speaks to the idea that accidents happen. By disks to it, I mean it documents the fallacy that cars are important other modes are not. Stresses the idea we need to improve infrastructure and policy making to improve safety for all modes of transit.
Sep 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Probably the best transportation planning book I've ever read. A concise, well written argument to treat pedestrian safety with the concern it deserves. ...more
Charles Denison IV
Oct 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An eye-opening look into the true causes of the rise of pedestrian deaths in the U.S. A must read for anyone interested in creating safer streets.
Nov 04, 2020 rated it liked it
There is a lot of discussion on the problems pedestrians face, but far too little talk of potential solutions.
Lesley Pories
Nov 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An excellent breakdown of how city planning decisions about traffic laws and street design impact and entrench systemic injustice, with some examples of progress.
Nov 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Great examination of inequities in pedestrian policies and facilities.
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Happy Women's History Month! One of the undisputedly good things about modern scholarship is that women’s history is finally getting its due....
87 likes · 13 comments
“In Sacramento in April 2017, for example, a twenty-four-year-old black man, Nandi Cain Jr., was stopped by police for jaywalking. The stop ended with an arrest, but not before a bystander had filmed police punching Cain eighteen times.7 The beating made national headlines. To make matters worse, it turned out that Cain was not even jaywalking; dash cam footage later showed that he was crossing legally in an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection. A follow-up investigation by the Sacramento Bee found that in the year prior to this incident, black residents had received 50 percent of the city’s jaywalking tickets, despite making up just 15 percent of the population.” 0 likes
“In contrast to modern media accounts, the news at the time was unflinching about where to lay the blame: on drivers. The St. Louis Star, for example, referred to drivers involved with pedestrian fatalities as “killers.” In 1923, an editorial in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said that even in the case of “a child darting into the street” in “the excitement of play,” the “plea of unavoidable accident in such cases is the perjury of a murderer.”18” 0 likes
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