Everything Stays the Same – Until it Doesn’t

What will 2023 bring for transportation providers? Professionals give their predictions

Micromobility to change transportation

If you could go back in time and ask someone from 1923 what they thought cars would look like in 100 years, they’d likely have imagined something shiny, with a chrome body and, of course, no wheels. Certainly, all cars would be airborne by 2023, right? Or maybe we’d have moved on from cars altogether and be traveling through tubes? Either way, they’d be shocked to see how little transportation has changed in the last century – and they certainly wouldn’t believe that cars were getting bigger, heavier, and more dangerous. 

“While we’ve had a decade of dreaming about driverless cars, more people are dying on America’s streets,” noted Janette Sadik-Khan, Principal, Bloomberg Associates, Board Chair of NACTO, former NYC Transportation Director, and author of “Street Fight.” Focusing on new technology has meant that existing road design has gotten even less safe for pedestrians. 

“You still can’t cross the street safely in Orlando,” Sadik-Khan quipped. 

Similarly, said David Zipper, Journalist, and Visiting Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Taubman Center for State and Local Government, the push toward electric hasn’t been all sunshine and roses, either. Because, while electric cars are getting more prolific, they’re also getting bigger, heavier, and more expensive. And they’re deepening car culture; as “truck bloat” continues to dominate the supply-demand cycle, trucks with a 16-foot blind spot are being encouraged, not discouraged. 

There are plenty of positive spots in the forecast, though. Zipper and Sadik-Khan outlined numerous “reasons to be cheerful” in the most recent America Walks webinar. 

Watch the Full Webinar Here:

Here are just a few:

Reasons to be Cheerful about Transportation in 2023: 

Lower speed limits. Both Sadik-Khan and Zipper noted that cities – or, more specifically, the advocates who live there – have been demanding that their regions develop streets and neighborhoods based on known facts about safety. That includes lowering speed limits, a relatively minor change that is a proven method for lowering pedestrian deaths. 

Micromobility. E-bikes, scooters, and other methods of moving have proliferated across the United States – even though the infrastructure isn’t built for them at all. Not only do these kinds of tools give people of different abilities the opportunity to get around faster and without driving, but they also encourage a shift of perspective. 

“I’m very bullish on golf carts,” Zipper noted, explaining that for suburban areas where big trucks tend to be popular, golf carts can serve basically the same purpose without putting children, animals, pedestrians, and cyclists at risk. 

When pressed about how to deal with the fact that many places have e-bikes but no bike lanes, Zipper was clear: Do it anyway and your city will have to, eventually, build for everyone. 

On how to make streets work for a wide range of vehicle types as well as pedestrians, the panelists agreed on the best solution – street designs that require lower speeds. That reduces the likelihood of crashes as users can see and react to potential conflicts in time to prevent serious injuries.  In other words, what streets looked more like 115 years ago before pedestrians were banished to the sidelines in favor of high-speed cars.

MUTCD: Sadik-Khan spoke some of our all-time favorite words during this webinar: Changes to the MUTCD. Also known as the most important safety document you’ve never heard of, this book of rules and regulations has long dictated street designs that are unsafe. We are anticipating a new MUTCD to be released soon.

Also hopeful, for the first time USDOT is talking about the safety of cars for those outside of the car – not just those in the vehicle.  It’s a long way to actually requiring safer vehicles, but the pressure is mounting for change.  

In all, there are a lot of exciting things on the horizon for transportation. Many advocates are working specifically to change the conversation, combat truck bloat, and try to build (and rebuild) our streets to make them safer and more effective for everyone. Though there have been plenty of bad news in the last few years, there are also reasons to believe that things are looking up.

RSVP for our next webinar happening on February 14th!

Janette Sadik-Khan Slides

For slides from David Zipper, please contact him directly at david@dzstrategies.com.