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Why streets prioritize cars over pedestrians

 November 16, 2021 at 9:06 AM PST

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Tuesday, November 16th.>>>>

why our streets prioritize cars over pedestrians. More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….######

President Biden signed his 1.2 trillion dollar infrastructure package on monday. The bipartisan bill includes money for roads, bridges, transportation, clean drinking water, access to high speed internet and more.

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria says the money will help address some of San Diego's urgent needs.

“invest in our existing infrastructure, repair potholes, bridges, and other things that need tending to, but we can also make smart investments that actually address sustainability and equity in ways that we couldn't do before.”

The bill also includes billions to improve the electrical grid, fight climate change, and build a network of electric vehicle charging stations.


Some parents staged another sit-out on monday to protest school vaccine and mask mandates. It comes after a judge dismissed a lawsuit last Friday seeking to stop the state’s mask mandate.

A mobile vaccination van that travels to school sites has vaccinated more than 600 children and adults as of last Friday, according to San Diego Unified. Maria Florendo brought her 8-year old grandson to be vaccinated.

“it’s better that kids are protected because you know that’s how we show how we love them.”


The San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance says, with heavy hearts, they had to euthanize a 45-year old hippo named Otis on monday. Otis the river hippo had been receiving medical care for degenerative joint and spinal disease. His condition declined dramatically over the weekend, leading wildlife care staff to make the decision to euthanize him.


From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now.Stay with me for more of the local news you need.

A self-professed “recovering engineer” explains that, too often, streets are designed to accommodate as many cars as possible at the fastest speed possible. Pedestrian and bike safety are often an afterthought. How did that come about and should it change?

KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen dove into those questions with Chuck Marohn (muh-RONE). He’s president of the nonprofit Strong Towns and author of the new book "Confessions of a Recovering Engineer."

Speaker 1: (00:00)

So you chose to title your book, confessions of a recovering engineer. What are you recovering from

Speaker 2: (00:05)

Man? I'm recovering from decades a decade or more of, of, uh, uh, of indoctrination. I mean really when you become a civil engineer, when you become a municipal engineer and you start doing things like traffic and sewer and water and all that stuff, there's a certain approach that is given to you that you inherit. Uh, you're given a book of standards you're given like, you know, the best practices of a profession and you have this expectation to follow that, particularly if you want to get ahead. And so for me, there was a certain, uh, kind of mystique that came with joining this profession and learning those things and, and adopting them as like the way things should be, uh, that I had to unlearn that I really had to go through and get out of my brain.

Speaker 1: (00:53)

A lot of these aspects that make a street very unsafe for inhospitable, for pedestrians, I learned from your book are actually designed to be safe, at least from the perspective of an old school traffic engineers. So describe for me what a safe street looks like from that perspective. And what do you see wrong with that picture?

Speaker 2: (01:12)

When you're designing a highway, there's some very like clear things that you do to make the highway safer for drivers. Uh, you widen out the lanes you add in recovery areas. You add in clear zones, you basically create a lot of buffer so that the driver of the vehicle has a lot of room to react to things that might happen you from a design standpoint, forgive the mistakes that a driver would make by creating all this buffer. When you bring that mindset into an urban area, what happens is that urban areas are full of complexity. They're full of automobiles. You know, that's randomly stop or turn or cut across traffic. You have people walking, people walking across the street in crosswalks, not in crosswalks. You have people on bikes. You have people in wheelchairs, you have the dog that gets loose and runs across the street.

Speaker 2: (02:04)

You have the kid who chases the kickball. So you have all of this complexity, the simultaneous that complexity, what you have done with the street design is actually signaled to drivers. We've got your back. We have provided you with lots of buffer room. You've got all kinds of safety factor, and we've just, we're signaling the wrong things to drivers. We're signaling to drivers that this is a simple environment like a highway. And so you don't have to pay really rigid, close attention. And most of the time, that's very true, but in these random occurrences where things are not where we expect them to be tragedy occurs and it occurs far too often,

Speaker 1: (02:41)

San Diego has set some very ambitious goals with cutting back on driving. But I don't think city leaders have a very clear picture of how they're going to get there exactly how they'll accomplish that. What do you think would have to change and how would our streets and our neighborhoods look differently? If that

Speaker 2: (03:01)

Is the goal, people would have to accept congestion as not a problem, but as actually a manifestation of the system that we built a system that needs to change. If you're going to meet those goals and you would actually have to embrace congestion for what it is, which is a sign of a demand for local alternatives, what you need to have is not a transportation approach. You need to have a neighborhood development approach because to get to that goal, to require people, to have alternatives near them, that they can walk to alternatives near them, that they can bite too. It doesn't, you're not going to get there by taking the Strode environment that you've created today or the highway environment you created it and like appendage a trail on the side of it. The only way you get to that goal is to actually build neighborhoods, neighborhoods where people can replace their longer distance trips with local trips. So I need milk. I need bread. I need to get my hair cut. I need to do, you know, whatever basic like thing I do on a typical day, that's got to be, there has to be an alternative for that.

That was Chuck Marohn, author of "Confessions of a Recovering Engineer." speaking with KPBS's Andrew Bowen. Marohn is giving a talk on Thursday at 4 p.m. at the San Diego History Center in Balboa Park. For a full version of this interview, check back later today for our bonus episode.


This is hunger & homelessness awareness week across the nation. KPBS’ Melissa mae describes how two local organizations are partnering to address these increasing issues.

MM: Father Joe's Villages and Mission Fed Credit Union are partnering for Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week.

MM: Deacon Jim Vargas is the president and CEO of Father Joe’s Villages and describes how much food insecurity affects the San Diego community.

“One out of three here in San Diego, one out of three have some level of nutritional insecurity across the board and that two children out of five have a level of nutritional insecurity.”

MM: To kick off the week, the organizations want to educate the public about how hunger and homelessness impacts San Diegans… Mission Fed employees donated their time to help assemble about 200 meal boxes for those in need.

MM: Along with food insecurity, about 7,600 people experience homelessness every night in San Diego.


A new homeless outreach team is now working in the north county... part of san diego county’s framework for ending homelessness.

kpbs reporter kitty alvarado tells us the team’s goal is to get the homeless connected with the resources they need.

it’s estimated that over 15 hundred people live on north county streets. the newly formed outreach team will try to change those numbers.

the team is made up of social workers, case managers and human services specialists.

county supervisor tara lawson-remer says the cost of this team is not known yet because it is a pilot program … but what she does know is that right now law enforcement is being used to deal with the issue. and she says it costs 83 thousand dollars year to put someone in jail versus 33 thousand dollars to get someone into housing and treatment.

so it’s from a fiscal point of view frankly completely insane that we’ve been sending trained law enforcement out and putting folks in jail instead of getting people the services that they need which is both more effective and significantly more effective

this is just the beginning. the next outreach team will be deployed in january. kitty alvarado kpbs news


Some cats are not friendly enough to live in normal homes with families. But shelters also don’t want to euthanize them. KPBS north county reporter tania thorne tells us about a new program that offers a solution.

Most people go to animal shelters looking for a new cat or dog to pet and cuddle.

But the San Diego County Department of Animal Services is launching a new program to help cats that are not so affectionate.

It's called Working Cats and the cats do just that.. Work.

“These cats are shy, they’re not as social as the cats in our traditional adoption program but they are excellent mousers. They’re more than willing to help patrol your property, your warehouse, your out building, your barn, and make sure that it's pest free.”

Kelly Campbell is the department’s director.

She says working cats are a great organic pest control option, especially for people living in rural areas of San Diego County.

So they’re waiving adoption fees for working cats.


Coming up.... With the glasgow climate conference over, critics are casting doubt on the political will of global leaders to meet the goals agreed upon at the conference and to get anything substantial done to fight climate change. We’ll have more on that next, just after the break.

With the Scotland global Climate Conference behind us, global leaders are moving forward to address the planet’s biggest climate issues. The problem of climate change is urgent, and critics have cast doubt on the political will of global leaders to actually achieve the commitments made at the conference.

David Victor is a professor of international relations at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at UC San Diego, and he attended the conference in Glasgow. He spoke with Midday Edition Host Jade Hindmon.

Speaker 1: (00:36)

So this climate conference was especially important to remind us why

Speaker 2: (00:41)

It was important because this is the first time that countries have updated their pledges since 2015, when they all got together in Paris and set up this new framework for cooperation on climate change. And so they they've issued new pledges, they all did that before the conference. And this was a chance to look at those budgets.

Speaker 1: (00:57)

And there's been a lot of talk about how the goals of cop 26 were watered down or not fully realized. Was this conference a success in your opinion?

Speaker 2: (01:07)

I think you can judge success two ways and part success can be judged by what happens with just the deadline of having 120 heads of state show up all the spotlight and so on. And that sense it was a huge success, lots of announcements. And it's in fact, the most interesting ones are from business. A lot of commitments, also a lot of noise, not quite clear, you know, what's real, what's not real, but in that sense, a big success. And the other way to judge success is around the diplomacy. And that's just a grinding process. Cause you have to get the consensus with every country that's there. And that's mostly mostly where the news media is focused. And in that sense, it was kind of what it was expected. They watered down the final agreement, they got agreement where agreement was possible and then they live for another day.

Speaker 1: (01:45)

What are some of the major milestones of this conference?

Speaker 2: (01:49)

Well, I think the most important milestone diplomatically was that you had essentially every government on the planet issue, these new pledges. And so as of today, about 70% of the world emissions are coming from countries that have a pledge to stop those emissions to zero in effect by mid-century. So that's a, that's a really big deal. They also had, uh, uh, uh, some, some diplomatic requirements. There were some parts of the Paris agreement that were not yet finalized. And so that had to be done. And then one of the most controversial issues and, and a big priority was, was money that developing countries have expected a hundred billion dollars per year of new money from there from richer countries. And they only got about 80 of it. And so they're upset about that, understandably. And they're also upset about how that money is being spent.

Speaker 1: (02:30)

Global leaders fall short in any significant ways in terms of the goals they agreed on.

Speaker 2: (02:37)

I think they mostly delivered on the goals that they at least said they were going to do. I think the big question right now is following up is do we believe these pledges, you know, it's pretty easy for a leader to come in and say, we're going to stop emissions to zero by mid-century, but almost nobody has a real plan for that. And I think from the developing countries, point of view, this question of money of how are they going to be in particular dealing with the fact that climate is already warming it's 1.2, two degrees above pre-industrial levels continues to accelerate. How are they going to deal with that? And some of these countries literally will be underwater. They have very emotive speeches about that. It's a big deal and they're looking for help. And that, that part of it, they really left without a clear plan. And, and a lot of trust I think is at a pretty low level.

Speaker 1: (03:21)

Um, can you tell us about some of the policy decisions that could have a strong impact locally here in California?

Speaker 2: (03:29)

Well, here in California, we're of course not going to sit waiting for an edict from the United nations system we're off working on deep decarbonization, cutting our emissions essentially to zero. I think what really matters here is that this helps put a lot more pressure on the need to act. And in particular puts a lot more pressure on the United States to be a leader and with everything that's going wrong in Washington right now, it's really the states and localities that are on the front lines of that. And here in San Diego, we are, we're doing a huge amount. And so I think that kind of pressure it's going to, it's going to put a, uh, put a spotlight on our model and also give us a, uh, a receptive audience around the world as we learn how to make big cuts in emissions. And hopefully it can help others do the same. Yeah,

Speaker 1: (04:11)

No one, we spoke at the beginning of the conference. You said our state's key role is to really gain fellow, uh, followership rather. Uh, can you remind us what you mean by that? And if you think that was achieved?

Speaker 2: (04:23)

Well, I think first California has less than 1% of global emissions. And so we are embarked. We have embarked on this incredible journey to eliminate emissions from our electric power sector from the rest of the California economy. But if we are successful, that's only 1% of global emissions. And so the goal is to get the rest of the world doing similar things. What I see as more countries looking to the United States as a leader, not only the United States, there's a lot happening in Europe and also skeptical of what's happening at the federal government level. And so they're looking to the states in particular and the most important thing that we're doing here in California is learning how to make big reductions in our electric power system, because that's going to be vital for the world worldwide effort to cut emissions. So I see lot, a lot of attention to that issue. And how do you keep the lights on? How much does it cost? Things like that?

Speaker 1: (05:09)

The absence of a few key leaders made headlines early on in the summit, most notably from China. And what can you tell us about that and how will it impact global cooperation to fight climate change?

Speaker 2: (05:21)

Well, it's one of the most important geopolitical questions right now. The Chinese leader was not there. The Russian leader was not there. Um, there are a lot of things going on inside China. The is becoming more insular. President Xi from China has not left the country in two years. He didn't go to the G 20 meeting and Rome the weekend before the big conference. And so this is a big concern because China is turning inward. The United States, frankly, is turning inward. It's one of the areas where there's a bipartisan agreement on foreign policy is to kind of beat up on China. And yet when you look at the history of innovation and deployment of new technologies in the energy space, a lot of it has been from globalization of manufacturing, like, like solar cells and batteries. And so we've got to find some way politically through that, but the political environment is very, very toxic. The two countries issued a kind of surprise communique a few days ago saying they're going to cooperate, but there wasn't really any content in there. Um, uh, other than things that they were already agreed to, uh, president Biden and president Xi are gonna meet, uh, very soon and hopefully just lower the temperature a little bit on the relationship and, and set up some working groups of the two countries can find at least some productive way forward.

Speaker 1: (06:26)

And ultimately, D do you think there's a discrepancy in terms of our scientific understanding versus the political will to combat a climate change?

Speaker 2: (06:35)

I think absolutely the scientists are convinced that we should be stopping warming at something like 1.5 degrees. We're now at 1.2 and cruising ahead right now, and they've been convinced of that for a long time. Uh, the economists have found various ways, at least in an ideal world to, to cut emissions at a reasonable cost. Politics are really, really hard. And I think that's, what's really key here is that because of all the announcements that happen, not only at cop 26 and Glasgow, but a lot of other places and, and demonstrations like we have here in California of how to actually cut emissions, which you're seeing as the political interest groups that want to cut emissions are getting stronger politically, that doesn't happen quickly, but it's ineffective rewriting the political landscape and making, making big deals more possible in a way that wasn't true. A few years ago,

Speaker 1: (07:19)

You know, temperature, projection based commitments were made at cop 26, but not as far as experts had hoped. What can you tell us about that?

Speaker 2: (07:28)

Well, the big promise was to, to keep 1.5 degrees alive, keep alive the idea that we're going to stop global warming at 1.5 degrees. And that's really important to a lot of the most vulnerable countries. The science suggests that that's a good, that's a reasonable goal. And so on what we've learned is that it's easy for countries collectively to pledge. They're going to stop warming at 1.5 degrees. So long as nobody individually says, this is exactly what we have to do. And so my expectation for a long time has been that we will continue to overplay edge and not deliver. And that means one more thing for us locally, which is that the whole whole world, including San Diego is in for quite a lot of climate change. And so we need to not believe these politicians when they say they're going to stop warming at 1.5 degrees. We need to plan for scenarios where warming is much more intense

Speaker 1: (08:13)

And, and quickly, is there a way to frame the end of cop 26 in a positive light?

Speaker 2: (08:19)

I think the single most important thing that happened, uh, was that corporate leaders were there in big numbers, made big pledges, and they're going to be held accountable. And that's a big change.

That was David Victor, professor of international relations at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at UC San Diego. He spoke with KPBS Midday Edition Host Jade Hindmon.

That’s it for the podcast today. Be sure to catch KPBS Midday Edition At Noon on KPBS radio, or check out the Midday podcast. You can also watch KPBS Evening Edition at 5 O’clock on KPBS Television, and as always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Annica Colbert. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

A self-professed recovering engineer critiques the design of modern roads. Meanwhile, it’s National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week. Father Joe's Villages and Mission Federal Credit Union are partnering to bring awareness to these pressing issues in San Diego. Plus, with the COP26 climate conference finished, global leaders now have the task of following up on ambitious promises made to help fight climate change.