The C Is for Crank

On Conflating "People" with "Drivers"

When reporters assume drivers are the only road users that matters, it's no wonder they see stories from behind a windshield.

By Erica C. Barnett January 4, 2013


The C Is For Crank

When every person is a "driver," every open space looks like like a freeway. 

That's car culture—the assumption that, just because we built the road system exclusively for cars in the 1950s, we can't change it to accommodate other users now because shifting our priorities is impossible. It's always been this way, therefore it will always be this way. And drivers, obviously, are the only road users who matter.

Car Culture Exhibit A for today is a story in KOMO News, about a plan to improve bus travel times by creating a new bus lane and bike lane on a two-block stretch of Broad St. in Belltown, eliminating a major choke point for downtown commuters and improving safety for cyclists.

That's how I would describe the city plan, anyway. Here's how KOMO sees it: "City planners want to reduce driving lanes on three blocks of Broad from four general purpose lanes down to one lane in each direction."

Last I checked, buses have drivers—and they carry a lot more people (8,000 on that stretch of Broad St. alone) than single-occupancy cars or even carpools. Essentially, the project could create a little more pain—again, we're talking about a two-block stretch (see below)—for some people who choose to drive downtown alone while improving travel speeds for many hundreds more who commute by bike or bus.  

But never mind. Cue the unattributed citations of public opinion! 

"The changes, especially the removal of parking spots, isn't [sic] sitting well with many Belltown residents," KOMO reports.

In fairness, KOMO did manage to find one disgruntled Belltown resident, who predicts that the removal of 24 parking spaces will make Belltown "a nightmare." (That's better than a 2012 KING 5 story on how buses are dangerous for "traffic," which didn't quote a single non-driving road user).  Never mind that parking spaces in North Belltown, the site of the city's project, are only 36 percent full—one of the lowest parking utilization rates in the entire downtown area.

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