Oppose Seattle transportation plans? You want people dead
Do you oppose project proposals and plans by the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT)? Then, you must want to see your fellow citizens harmed or killed. That sounds like a preposterous conclusion to jump to, but it’s a oft-used strategy not just by SDOT but by their activist supporters.
SDOT and city leaders, including Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, have adopted a safety initiative titled “Vision Zero Seattle,” which aims “to end traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030.” Normally with something like this, I’d say it’s a well-intentioned goal (even if it’s unobtainable). I’m not so sure it’s as well-intentioned as some folks might think; at least in how it’s been used against critics of SDOT policies.
I have no doubt these folks want to see an end to traffic deaths or injuries, but understand that they use Vision Zero to try to quash opposition. When you say you’re against a proposal or project, it’s quite common to hear the rebuttal that essentially says if you’re against their plan, you don’t care about safety. The hope is that you stop yourself from being critical because you don’t want to be labeled as someone who wants to see our neighbors be killed in a car crash.
We see this strategy being played out time and time again. For example, SDOT is hoping to lower the speeds cars can travel in parts of Seattle as a means to stop deadly or serious collisions. SDOT Director Scot Kubly argued that drivers on arterial roads of business districts that end up having to drive 30 mph instead of 35 mph, would only add about a minute to their total commuting time (on average – though this is only valid if there’s no traffic when you’re driving).
“I guess what I would ask everybody is, is one minute of their time more important than preventing traffic fatalities,” Kubly explains. “And I know for me, my time is not that valuable.” Quite a noble individual.
Strategically, he’s putting you in a position that if you disagree with his idea — you think your time is so valuable — you’re willing to allow someone to be killed in a traffic fatality. It’s a smart and deceitful tactic to win an argument you otherwise might not win. It’s meant to silence the opposition. (And by the way, this isn’t something only Progressives do. You routinely see Conservatives do it over military spending where instead of having a civil discussion on spending, it’s turned into “Well, you hate the troops.”)
Why might someone be against the speed reduction plan?
For starters, you should look at whether or not this plan would even work. When I pointed out to Kubly that Portland has about double the pedestrian/car collisions than Seattle and they’ve imposed lower driving speeds, Kubly simply pointed me to “Newtonian physics” as to the reasoning behind the lower speeds (as if it’s in question that if you’re hit by a fast car, you’ll be injured; the actual question is if this is actually a problem or not, a question you can’t find the answer to if you’re told you can’t even ask it to begin with).
And it’s not just SDOT representatives using this strategy; it’s other activists. On Tuesday morning I published a blog entry on a ridiculous bike lane plan on a busy Seattle street and immediately the pro-bike crowd jumped on me. A blogger tweeted at me:
@jasonrantz You’ve made it abundantly clear that you don’t support multi-modal equity and have advocated for people’s harm.
The Urbanist (@UrbanistOrg) May 26, 2015
I immediately asked how I have advocated for people’s harm. That’s a rather provocative charge. It’s also baseless, but a great example of how the strategy above is used:
@jasonrantz You actively oppose projects that save lives & pretend you aren't harming people. What's your plan for zero traffic deaths?
— The Urbanist (@UrbanistOrg) May 26, 2015
See what happened? I disagree with some ridiculous SDOT plans and that’s proof I “advocated for people’s harm.” No actual advocacy for harm; just disagreeing with projects. And in the case of the proposal for Fifth Avenue, it hasn’t saved any lives (it’s a plan in its infancy).
This is a great strategy to silence and smear the opposition, and SDOT and their allies are not above using it. It’s politics, I guess.
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