Letter: We need to stop prioritizing speed and convenience over safety

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Traffic moves along Foothill Dr. and Sunnyside Ave. in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021.

After five people lost their lives at the hands of drivers in one week, it’s clear that traffic violence is a growing threat on Utah roads. These tragedies result from poor driving behavior and a transportation system that places speed over safety.

While education and enforcement are vital to creating safer streets, it’s essential to recognize how our car-centric transportation system endangers everyone on the road: Our wide streets encourage speeding, while narrow sidewalks and sparse or poorly protected bike lanes make people walking and biking vulnerable to fast-moving cars.

Mayor Mendenhall’s proposed $2 million for traffic calming and the newly announced Safe Streets task force are a good start, but more work is needed to address this issue. Additional funding for traffic calming would help protect everyone on our streets. The City Council should embrace the “20 is Plenty” campaign and make 20 miles per hour the default speed limit on all city-owned roads. Longer-term solutions include eliminating parking requirements for new developments to discourage unnecessary driving. Finally, working with UDOT to plan to move people, not just cars, will be critical to improving the safety of state-owned roads.

These tragic fatalities are not the “cost of doing business.” Rather, they stem in part from a paradigm that prioritizes speed and convenience over safety. Changing that paradigm will not be easy, but continuing the status quo will mean more preventable deaths on our roads.

Anders Hart, Salt Lake City

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