Re: Law Suit for Human Scale Access.
- Couldn't human rights violation constitute a third approach?
There is an obligation of the state to ensure free movement as well as safety.
Human rights should be valid for every person for the sole fact he/she is a human beeing, regardless of beeing rich or poor, healthy or sick etc. Thus, free (and safe) mobility should be provided for everyone, even for people with psychological problems, intoxicated with alcohol (which is legal) or other substances, people who can not drive because of their age or medical condition or who can not afford a motorized vehicle etc. If walking (supported by public transit) is not considered as the implied mode of free and safe movement, and driving is regarded as the primary way of moving around, then all these people who can not drive because of various reasons (ie a significant part of the population) should be provided with a car with a chauffeur, which is obviously unfeasible.
At 03:36 �� 31/1/2003 +0200, you wrote:
> Date: Thu, 30 Jan 2003 21:05:26 -0000______________________________________________________________________
> From: "look384 <kevin.barton@...>" <kevin.barton@...>
>Subject: Re: Law Suit for Human Scale Access.
>I was quite surprised to see this question, as I was considering the
>same issue just today. What triggered my thought was the fact a
>pedestrian was hit by a car yesterday less than a block from my
>office. My thought was basically the same as yours, could a person
>sue simply for being denied reasonable safety? Not whether you're
>prohibited from walking, but if city design and city ordinances make
>walking or cycling dangerous. One of the other replies pointed out
>you can walk in Austin, although they conceded there are parts of the
>developed city that aren't truly accessible by walking. Their
>example of walking was more recreational in nature than
>transportation. I believe a lawsuit based on inadequate or dangerous
>access for walking as a mode of transportation would have to be
>proven to be successful. I see two possible approaches.
>1) Driving is not a right or an obligation. Therefore those who
>choose to walk or ride a bike but don't have reasonable or safe
>access are being harmed, especially if you can show some physical
>(health) or economic harm.
>2) The American with Disabilities Act was my second thought, and may
>have better chance for success. However, I suspect you'd have to
>find someone with a disability who has been harmed by zoning laws and
>city design. I suppose that would be possible among the elderly,
>blind, deaf, or anyone who has been denied a drivers license simply
>for health or handicap reasons. The next step would be proving they
>don't have the same access as motorists.
>That's my suggestion as a laymen with one college class in business
>law. Personally, I would absolutely love to see someone win such a
>case, it might well set a precedent for every city in the country.
>If the zoning laws can be beat down, carfree or walkable communities
>could have a chance to prove their worth.
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>If walking (supported by public transit) is not considered as thehang on this doesn't work. Why should public transport (not free) be any
>implied mode of free and safe movement, and driving is regarded as the
>primary way of moving around, then all these people who can not drive
>because of various reasons (ie a significant part of the population)
>should be provided with a car with a chauffeur, which is obviously
different from cars? Buses are jsut as dangerous as cars. You can't
distinguish motor vehicles. So you will also be launching against any kind
of vehicle that could harm people or cost anything. The only difference is
one of degree so finding a cut -off point is going to be very hard to get
any consensus on.
Are buses dangerous? No. Are cars dangerous? No. Are drivers
dangerous? A big yes. It's how people use objects, offensively
obviously are dangerous. Get the notion that objects are dangerous
out of your minds. Objects are inert, actionless until a person
activates it. A gun is only dangerous if a person uses it offensively
and not defensively. A cell phone, as I noted early, is dangerous
only if a persons misuses it while driving. By the way, it is same
for a pedestrian or cyclist who misuses a cell phone!
Regarding the human rights thing: It might be a valid argument only
if the pedestrians and persons with disabilities can't cross a street
because of unsafe drivers who don't respect the bylaws and laws. This
needs to be explored further.
>Are buses dangerous? No. Are cars dangerous? No. Are driversI'm sorry, with respect I can't go down this line, not just because it is
>dangerous? A big yes.
borrowed from the National Rifle association. Half a ton of metal at 30 pmh
is dangerous, i don't care how good the driver is. Cyclists kill people in
small numbers from direct impact. A legal argument that singles out cars is
not going to stand *legally*.
>It's how people use objects, offensivelyAre you talking about the legal or the (for want of a better word) moral
>obviously are dangerous. Get the notion that objects are dangerous out
>of your minds. Objects are inert, actionless until a person activates
>it. A gun is only dangerous if a person uses it offensively and not
>defensively. A cell phone, as I noted early, is dangerous only if a
>persons misuses it while driving. By the way, it is same for a
>pedestrian or cyclist who misuses a cell phone!
angle though? I was talking about the legal angle.
>This would legally have to also be applicable to other people not
>Regarding the human rights thing: It might be a valid argument only if
>the pedestrians and persons with disabilities can't cross a street
>because of unsafe drivers who don't respect the bylaws and laws. This
>needs to be explored further.
respecting other laws. I don't think it has any chance legally of making a
case. You might as well sue the council for permitting burglary. You would
have to show that cars were a special case, where the use of car made it
almost impossible to avoid breakign limits, jumping signs, etc. And this
insane 'turn right on red' law has legalised some of the worst abuses.
Does the US have a 'human rights' law as does Europe now?
>A gun is only dangerous if a person uses it offensively and notshooting someone before they shoot you is *dangerous* whether they were
going to shoot you or not. Whether it is justified is a completely
- I certainly like your thought process, however I'm not familiar with
cases where someone successfully sued based on violation of "human
rights". A case could be made if there were violation of
constitutional rights, but I doubt you could get anywhere on a claim
centering on human rights. Either way, I'm not aware of any
obligation the government has to ensure mobility. I believe you'd
have to find something where the government is liable, such as a
poorly designed or maintained road. Even if you did win a case on
violation of human or constitutional rights, I'm not sure you'd be
happy with the settlement you suggested, at least not immediately.
If you removed all the cars from a modern US city, you'd still have a
city with poor access for most walkers and cyclists simply because
zoning laws keep everything so spread out. Given the expense you
mentioned in your suggested settlement, it's quite possible a local
government may eventually change zoning laws, however since zoning
laws seem to be a root cause I suggest a lawsuit should target them
Zoning laws are published by the local government and directly
influence the way a city or town is organized. If the city's
organization can be proven to harm a non-motorist and the city can be
proven liable based on the zoning laws, then I believe someone who
chooses not to or cannot drive has a chance of winning a case. It
may be hard for someone who chooses not to drive to get started, just
as it may be hard for someone who cannot drive as a result of their
own misconduct, i.e. from losing their license from a DUI or
wreckless driving. However, someone who has been denied a license
because of mental or physical disability would stand a better
chance. From my perspective, the American with Disabilities Act is
applicable because it requires builders to ensure access a design
feature, and may well be suited to forcing a local government to
ensure access through both design and organization. I suspect when a
government sits down to zone a given area the planners are working
from some frame of reference, such as permissible travel time between
residential and shopping zones. If that travel time is calculated
based on walking speeds, then our case is weak. However, since I
suspect it's assumed we're all drivers, the travel distance is based
on vehicle speeds, meaning the zones are separated by greater
distance, requiring excessive time for walkers. Further, since it's
assumed we're all drivers, facilities such as sidewalks and paths are
excluded meaning walkers have no place to walk when traveling between
zones. It's possible the government could be held liable for this
type of poor and unfair access for non-motorists.
I believe it's important to know what type of settlement you want,
such as monetary, change in laws, change in service or facilities. I
think the best case would be a change or rescission of zoning laws.
Any of the other types of settlements may force a government to
change the laws themselves, but in the end what you really want is a
city layout that provides for non-motorists first, and motorists
last, with bicycles and public transportation falling somewhere in
the middle. If zoning laws were defeated, we could build cities and
towns completely mixed use, such as the example of central Austin and
the center of many other cities, which would enable non-motorists
city-wide to have access to all the services and facilities required
for modern life. If however, you can't win a change in zoning laws,
other settlements could be beneficial. Following are a couple of
A settlement guaranteeing equal but separate facilities for non-
motorists, such as sidewalks or paths along every road would be
extremely expensive and eventually force a government to either build
less roads or organize the city to where the roads are shorter. The
fact is non-motorists do not have equal access to US roads.
Motorists are entitled access the full length of the road, non-
motorists are only entitled the shoulder or the narrow strip crossing
the road at the cross-walks. A pedestrian simply can't walk down the
middle of the road, taking up an entire lane. If you tried and
survived, you'd surely run into problems with the first police
officer you happened across. This theory has been proven
by "critical mass", a movement where cyclists fill entire lanes,
slowing and jamming traffic. Many of them have received tickets, had
bikes impounded or been jailed. As a side note, equal but separate
was struck down in another great cause, the civil rights movement
against US segregation. Winning such a settlement could prove the
zoning laws a violation and set a government up to later have "equal
but separate" proven a violation against non-motorists.
Another possible settlement might be a speed limit within the city to
reduce the danger automobiles present to non-motorists. There's an
interesting statistic that 80 percent of pedestrians struck by car
going 20 mph will survive, while 80 percent of pedestrians struck by
an automobile going 40 mph will die. Although a 20 percent chance of
death for walking is still a lot, traffic moving at 20 mph is
dramatically less dangerous than traffic moving at 40 mph. A
settlement with a 20 mph speed limit for all city streets would be a
major win, and would yield many more benefits than just reducing
pedestrian fatalities. It would also make the city much quieter,
less polluted and with far greater travel times might encourage
denser development, all of which would significantly improve
conditions for walkers. There is a precedence for dramatically
slower speeds in a modern, developed nation. The national speed
limit in Japan is a mere 30 mph, on all rural and urban roads except
toll roads. Although speed limits are poorly enforced, traffic does
move much slower than in the US. The roads are also built at a much
smaller scale since they aren't designed to handle high speed
traffic, making them much more pleasant for cycling.
--- In email@example.com, "ktsourl@m..." <ktsourl@m...>
> Couldn't human rights violation constitute a third approach?
> There is an obligation of the state to ensure free movement as well
> Human rights should be valid for every person for the sole facthe/she is a human beeing, regardless of beeing rich or poor, healthy
or sick etc. Thus, free (and safe) mobility should be provided for
everyone, even for people with psychological problems, intoxicated
with alcohol (which is legal) or other substances, people who can not
drive because of their age or medical condition or who can not afford
a motorized vehicle etc. If walking (supported by public transit) is
not considered as the implied mode of free and safe movement, and
driving is regarded as the primary way of moving around, then all
these people who can not drive because of various reasons (ie a
significant part of the population) should be provided with a car
with a chauffeur, which is obviously unfeasible.
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