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Re: Law Suit for Human Scale Access.

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  • look384 <kevin.barton@t-online.de>
    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
    Message 1 of 6 , Feb 3, 2003
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      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
      directly.

      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
      examples.

      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 carfree_cities@yahoogroups.com, "ktsourl@m..." <ktsourl@m...>
      wrote:
      >
      > 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.
      >
      >
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