Baltimore City Councilman Ryan Dorsey is under fire for saying Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank's development plans amount to "white supremacy." (Baltimore Sun video)
Recently, I introduced to the City Council an ordinance that would set lower speed limit standards than the city’s current defaults. In the case of many streets, neighborhood streets in particular, it would set a standard where none currently exists. Research shows that taking this action reduces driver speeds and helps reduce crashes including those that injure and kill pedestrians.
Nationally, rates of crashes are rising, and at a greater rate in Baltimore where rates are already some of the worst. Baltimore’s crash rate is a primary reason for the oppressively high auto insurance rates city residents pay. For a third of the city’s population, the hit is a double whammy — insurance premiums that are so high as to prohibit car ownership and an unsafe environment to exist in as a pedestrian. For these reasons and others, we should be pursuing all proven strategies for better regulating cars in the urban environment. Doing so will produce positive health, safety and economic impacts.
That’s what I’ve been doing by introducing Complete Streets legislation, by working with the Department of Transportation to pursue traffic calming projects throughout my district and, most recently, by introducing legislation regarding speed limits. Making Baltimore’s streets safer for all road users, including cars, has been one of the primary focuses of my first term as a Baltimore City Council member.
So I was caught off guard by The Baltimore Sun’s editorial that accused me essentially of oversimplifying this issue to one that can be solved by legislating speed limits. If you're a part of the livable streets advocacy world, the title of their editorial should tell you all you need to know. “Lower speed limit not a panacea for traffic deaths” (Sept. 18). Who said it was?
The Sun’s framing of alternative approaches to reducing speed limits amounts to little more than whataboutism. Nearly all of The Sun's proposals are addressed by my Complete Streets bill, you know, the one I introduced 14 months ago, that The Sun has written about before (but declines to recall for this editorial), and that has a committee work session next week. For those who aren't insiders, The Sun's editorial is an extended version of a familiar type of straw man summoned against transportation policies that create positive health, safety, and economic outcomes through proper regulation of automobiles in the urban setting.
The Sun does not want to respond directly to whether or not lower speeds will promote positive policy outcomes — as research clearly shows is true. Instead, they invent an argument that I am not making and try to create doubt in the reader’s mind. No one except The Sun is suggesting that lower speed limits are proposed as a panacea for dangerous driving. But the fact of the matter is, lower speed limits are a proven tool for reducing death and injury to pedestrians and drivers alike.
The board’s selective memory about my work on street safety, appeals to victim blaming (just Google “distracted walking myth”), and an attempt to punt this issue to another consultant proves that it is The Sun that has failed to think this issue through.