This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California

The design mistake of combining cars with pedestrians


If you've lived in the Phoenix area from the time that cars started becoming popular until right now, you've seen an unfortunate design mistake of combining cars with pedestrians. In the future people will laugh at it, the way that I'm laughing at the photo up there of the photo of the swimming pool in a parking lot at a motel, with the car just a few inches away from where people are sitting poolside. And it's not funny to imagine an excited child jumping out of the pool and running behind a car.

Of course, in the 1950s, having a car just inches away from a swimming pool wasn't considered all that strange. People just didn't see anything wrong with it. And this type of design mistake has continued, and it seems to be just taken for granted that cars are combined with people walking around them, in parking lots. The next time you park your car in a parking lot in Phoenix, take a look at where people are expected to walk - behind the vehicles that are backing up. There is rarely any type of sidewalk that separates pedestrians from cars. It's just not designed in.

But things are changing, and I'm watching the design change. And it starts with not taking for granted that people need to share their space with cars, or trucks. But it's not enough to just make a space strictly for pedestrians. There are people who will need to be accommodated, such as disabled people, or the elderly, or someone like me with a bad ankle (which I like to consider "athletic injury"!). Areas that are completely closed off to vehicular traffic would make it difficult for emergency vehicles to get in to help. So it's going to be a compromise.

But the first step has begun. And that first step is to see how ridiculous it is to have a space shared by gigantic metal objects, and fragile things of flesh and bone. And as a designer, I tend to be very stubborn that yes, it can be done. There are a lot of wonderful and talented people out there working on it right now, and I'm confident that intelligent separation of cars and people will become the norm. And stupid, and dangerous, design will become a thing of the past.


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