Jean Labatut.

Highways in our national life; a symposium online

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fills in the drier climates of the Middle Western regions of the
United States and that of hydraulic fills in the more humid eastern

Rainfall is also the cause of sheet erosion and gully formation, a
serious problem for the maintenance engineer who inherits all the
ills caused by faulty design and construction. Similarly as in the
over-all climatic action, it is not the total rainfall per year which
indicates the seriousness of the erosion problem; rather it is the
rainfall pattern. Especially destructive are torrential rains after
severe dry spells.

Proper drainage is justly considered as the most important single
factor in highway performance. Adequate design of drainage in-
stallations requires the knowledge of such climatic data as precipi-
tation pattern, infiltration, run-off, surface retention, evaporation,
and stream flow. The basic data on these phenomena for particular
locations can usually be obtained from government agencies.

An important feature of maintenance is the removal of snow from
highway pavements. Because of the seasonal character of this ac-
tivity it is good engineering to employ equipment, especially trac-
tors, of a character which permits its utilization for other mainte-
nance or construction purposes during the snow-free season of the
year. Where traffic is fight and where cold temperatures continue
for a considerable time, it is good practice to use the compacted
snow as a road surface. By its insulating properties the compacted
snow protects the highway pavement from the effect of severe tem-
peratures. A point to be considered in this connection is that re-
moval of snow from a pavement but not from the neighboring soil



results in a lower temperature of the soil underneath the pavement
as compared with that of the soil on the sides of the road. This
brings about a flow potential for the soil moisture with consequent
moisture accumulation often in the form of ice layers under-
neath the pavement, expressing itself in frost heave and frost boils
or generally lowered bearing power of the road after the spring

The speed of a road is limited not only by its width and align-
ment but also by the absolute sight distance and by the physical
condition of the road surface. These latter are seriously affected
by such climatic factors as fog, rain, snow, hail, and ice formation
on road and windshield.

Attempt has been made here to trace a general picture of the
influence of climate on highways. Specific details have been avoided
or presented only as they seemed necessary to show the close con-
nection of the more or less abstract general philosophy with the
direct observations easily made by the engineer and the layman.
Already, progressive contractors and highway departments are using
climatic records and weather information for the planning of their
activities. This trend will undoubtedly continue. However, what
seems most important to the author is this, that the general rela-
tionships between highways and climate should be better under-
stood by those responsible for the planning and designing of our
highways. Only by this understanding can we hope to approach the
solution of our most challenging problem which is to provide truly
low-cost all-weather roads to all citizens.




ALTHOUGH our modern American streets and highways were de-
signed primarily to provide for the expeditious and safe movement
of motorized vehicles, the governmental agencies who built these
travelways did not, with a few rare exceptions, grant to motorists
an exclusive franchise. Our streets and highways must be shared.
They must be available to pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers of
horse-drawn vehicles as well as to motorists. These "other users"
have inalienable rights which cannot be denied. They must be pro-
vided with the same freedom of movement and safety, within
regulations, as our motorized travelers have learned to expect
through years of pampering.

Because of inherent differences in the various types of traffic on
the road, involving such items as weight, size, speed, maneuver-
ability, and numerical strength, the sharing of our highways is
never on an equal basis. Attempts to safeguard the lives and limbs
of our publicway travelers, both afoot and mounted, have evolved
into efforts to protect one from the other. To some degree this has
been accomplished through segregation, education, and enforce-
ment, but the problem is far from licked.

No panacea for road safety has been developed, despite sincere
efforts by some of the best minds in America; nor will there be
such a' panacea. Our traffic ills are intangible. They cannot be iso-
lated, like a tuberculosis germ, and thus destroyed. While our
traffic problems involve machines and are the direct by-products
of the machine age, no corrective treatment of the machines them-
selves can eliminate the havoc they are daily causing, or even a
major portion thereof. Those dealing with the prevention of traffic
accidents are confronted with a tangled maze, involving human
nature, emotion, deficiency, error, judgment, and habit, plus inherent
rights, legal technicalities, the elements, phenomena of nature, man-
made machines and devices with great potentialities and limitations,
and a great many situations and conditions which do not conform to
any prearranged pattern or control measure.

Accident prevention to the greatest possible degree cannot come



through the efforts of the traffic police alone, nor solely from the
efforts of the educator, the engineer, the judiciary, the legislator, the
psychologist, or any one of the other professions directly or indi-
rectly concerned with the problem. It can come only through the
joint and cooperative efforts of all of these, with unreserved as-
sistance of the great majority of Americans who consider themselves
good citizens.

The modern automobile driver resents the presence on the streets
of horse-drawn vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians, despite the fact
that he may have been a driver of a horse-drawn vehicle, undoubt-
edly was a bicycle rider, and definitely is a pedestrian whenever he
finds himself on the street sans motor vehicle. He considers these
with whom he must share the road as monkey wrenches in the wheels
of his progress, bunkers on the clear fairways that make up our high-
way system. Despite his resentment, the motorist must tolerate the
walker, the cyclist, and the wagon. Not only must he tolerate them,
he must learn to cooperate with them, give way to them, and help
make it possible for them to go their ways in safety. They cannot
be removed from the highway as an engineer would remove a haz-
ardous obstruction.

In these United States there are 3^ million miles of public im-
proved and unimproved streets, roads, and highways, stretching
from the crowded tenement areas of Manhattan to the wide ex-
panses of the western plains. Attempting to use these roadways,
besides some 43^ million motor vehicles, are 130 million pedestrians,
18 million bicycles (as estimated by the Bicycle Institute of America,
Inc.), and an undetermined number of horse-drawn vehicles. (The
horse and mule population of the country was 15 million in 1940. ) *

If an equal distribution of these many millions of highway users
were possible, the problem would be trivial by comparison with that
which exists today. But there is no equal distribution, nor can there
be; and as a result we have a heavy concentration of motor vehicles,
pedestrians, and bicycles, along with a few horse-drawn vehicles,
in urban areas. This concentration has resulted in a conflict which
has contributed mightily to the huge annual toll of traffic deaths
and injuries in the nation.

In building a case for these three underdogs of the traffic world,
it is well that they be considered singly, inasmuch as they are funda-
mentally different in spite of the fact that the laws of some munici-
palities and states consider a bicyclist a "mounted pedestrian" and
a horse-and-wagon a "vehicle" in the same sense as an automobile.

1 See "Transportation and War," an address by Chester Gray, Director,
National Highway Users Conference.



Actually, a bicyclist is not a pedestrian-on-wheels and control meas-
ures designed for bicycles are not as a rule applicable to pedestrians
and vice versa. A horse-drawn vehicle differs from an automobile
or truck, inasmuch as it is not subject in most jurisdictions to licens-
ing and cannot conform to rules provided for motorized traffic, i.e.,
headlights, brakes, warning devices, and minimum speed regula-


Walking has been a right and privilege of the human race since
time immemorial. It has been only since the advent of self-propelled
vehicles that society has seen fit to apply restraints to the pedestrian,
and only then for his own protection. True, such things as sidewalks
and street crossings preceded the automobile by many centuries, but
these were conceived not as safeguards for the pedestrian, but for
his personal convenience.

To drive an automobile a person must be of a certain age and
must meet with certain other minimum physical standards that may
be self or legislatively imposed. The driving of a motor vehicle is a
privilege granted by government to those capable of doing so, and
this privilege may be taken away for cause. How different this is
from the status of the pedestrian. Anyone who has the physical
ability to stand and to propel himself by taking steps is a pedestrian.
It matters not if he has sight or hearing. It matters not if his progress
is made through great physical effort and at an extremely slow pace.
In other words, if he can transport himself, it is his privilege to do
so. In a broad sense, all people are pedestrians and may use our pub-
lic ways, except those who are so young that they have not yet learned
the art of walking, those who are kept within the confines of insti-
tutions, and those unable to walk because of physical disabilities.
Among pedestrians you find all motorists, all cyclists, and the users
of most, if not all, other forms of transportation. Therefore, it can
honestly be said that, in dealing with pedestrians, you are dealing
with the people as a whole: the young and the old, the halt, the in-
firm, and the blind.

The pedestrian is the most difficult "problem child" of the accident-
prevention movement. He is not subject to licensing, therefore, en-
forcement of regulatory measures for his protection is hampered. In
the eyes of the general public, the violations he commits and the
errors of judgment he makes are of a trivial nature, but the results
of these violations and errors are frequently disastrous.

Of the thousands of people who lose their lives every year as the
result of traffic accidents, one out of every three is a pedestrian. Be-



cause of the concentration of pedestrians and motor vehicle traffic
on the streets of our cities and towns, the ratio is higher there than
the national average. Of each five persons who die of traffic acci-
dents in urban areas, three are pedestrians. In rural areas, pedestrian
fatalities represent one-sixth of the total traffic death toll.

Pedestrian fatality records show the influence of other circum-
stances and conditions. More than half of all pedestrian deaths occur
between 6:00 p.m. and midnight, with a particularly high rate in
the early evening. The period of dusk is the most hazardous hour
of the day for pedestrians. Age affects the likelihood of an injury
accident proving fatal and, also, the rate of occurrence. More than
half of the persons killed in traffic under 15 and over 65 years of age
are pedestrians. Another interesting sidelight is the fact that two out
of three pedestrians killed were committing violations or were en-
gaged in some obviously unsafe act. Pedestrian behavior leaves much
to be desired. Special studies show that, of the pedestrians killed
in recent years who were eligible from an age standpoint to have
drivers' licenses, only one or two of every ten were actually licensed
operators, indicating that for the most part pedestrians involved in
accidents with motor vehicles have little if any appreciation of the
potentialities and limitations of motor vehicles.

In the foregoing are some of the facts which are known about
pedestrian accidents; facts about when, how, why, and to whom
they happen. Yet to be determined is how, through legislative action
and other means, to instill in the pedestrian's mind that he must
change his walking habits or become a casualty.

The pedestrian's chief benefactor is the engineer. By designing
and developing well-conceived physical safeguards, the engineer is
saving the pedestrian from many of his own follies. These engineer-
ing safeguards range from the simple application of paint on pave-
ment surfaces, showing the pedestrian where he may walk in com-
parative safety, to huge and costly pedestrian tunnels and overpasses.

The question, "What engineering safeguards can be provided for
the pedestrian?", can best be answered by illustrating what city,
county, and state engineering departments are doing to meet the
various critical conditions affecting the safety of pedestrians.

In rural areas where dangers to pedestrians are accentuated by
high vehicle speeds, sidewalks have been built along highways,
especially near cities and towns, schools, churches, community meet-
ing places, industrial plants, and in transition zones between urban,
suburban and rural areas.

One of the most commonly applied remedies for pedestrian pro-
tection is marked crosswalks, using yellow or white pavement paint,



metal discs, rows of differently colored bricks, and colored concrete.
These not only show the pedestrian where to walk, but serve as a
warning to motorists. Pedestrian-actuated traffic signals have been
installed where they are warranted by the volume of pedestrian
traffic and the conflict with vehicular traffic. Pedestrian "walk" and
"wait" lights are a refinement of the standard traffic signals and are
becoming increasingly popular.

Barriers for the control and direction of pedestrian movement
have been used in many places with good results. They are of many
types, some being simple iron railings and some single chains, while
others are fence-like. They may be of permanent or temporary

Serving as places of refuge for pedestrians, safety zones and
islands are installed where street widths and the volume and speed
of vehicular traffic make street-crossing hazardous. The most effec-
tive are those which provide positive protection for the pedestrian.
Traffic safety lighting has been found to be effective in the reduction
in pedestrian accidents, as well as those of other types.

The adding of walkways to existing bridges and similar structures
which must be used by both vehicles and pedestrians was one of the
most important structural improvements for pedestrian protection.

Separation of pedestrian and vehicular traffic at grade is probably
the most extreme structural change being employed to any extent
to provide protection for pedestrian traffic. This involves the build-
ing of pedestrian overpasses and tunnels and requires heavy ex-
penditures. Too frequently, however, pedestrians are reluctant to
take advantage of this protection, preferring to risk their necks in
the street itself.

There are various other methods for the physical protection of
pedestrians, such as regulatory signs of various types.

Until comparatively recently the only accentuated approach to
the pedestrian accident problem was through educational media.
In recent years, however, engineering has made great strides and
the police in a number of localities, fortified with enabling laws and
ordinances, have been subjecting pedestrians to enforcement. Edu-
cation, however, retains its place as an important means of attacking
the problem and is a necessary adjunct to other means and remedies.
In too many communities it has been the only approach, however.

Selective education projects, directed for example at a particular
type of violation, or at a racial or nationality group, or at persons
of a certain age, must grow out of an adequate and comprehensive
accident-reporting system and complete analysis of pedestrian ac-



Pedestrians must be educated as to where and how to walk, and
shown how to recognize and avoid unsafe practices. They must be
told how to take advantage of the many safeguards provided for
their protection. Parents and teachers must learn how to instruct
children in walking safely. For the protection of pedestrians, motor-
ists must be instructed on pedestrian rights, and where and how to
watch out for careless pedestrians, and how to cooperate to save
pedestrian lives.

Media available for pedestrian education include publicity out-
lets, such as newspapers and radio stations, painted instructions on
sidewalks and street surfaces, posters, billboards, show window
displays, handout pamphlets, envelope enclosures, moving pictures,
sound-slidefilms, contests, special pedestrian campaigns, "safety
weeks," schools for pedestrian violators, and a variety of others.

The enforcement by police officers of pedestrian regulations,
which until quite recently has been reluctantly and timidly attempted
in only a few far-separated municipalities, is now an accomplished
fact in many cities, large and small, throughout the nation. The
acceptance by the public of pedestrian enforcement has been good
wherever put into effect and the saving of life and limb has been

As an indication of the growing trend toward enforcement of
pedestrian traffic regulations, 11 per cent of all the cities submitting
entries in the 1948 National Traffic Safety Contest reported arrests
for pedestrian traffic violations, other than for public intoxication.
Practically all cities either arrest intoxicated pedestrians or hold
them in "protective custody" until sober. The need for this latter
action is shown by the fact that, according to national traffic au-
thorities, during 1948 17 per cent of drivers involved in fatal acci-
dents and 23 per cent of pedestrians killed in traffic accidents had
been drinking.

There seems little possibility of making substantial reductions in
traffic deaths and injuries unless there is a general recognition of
the important place the pedestrian occupies in the total traffic prob-
lem and unless the pedestrian assumes some of the responsibility
for his own safety. He can do this by complying with existing regu-
lations, which for the most part are designed primarily for his pro-


The bicyclist occupies a unique spot in the traffic control picture.
In the first place, he represents a small minority among those vying
for the use of our streets. In the second place, he is, for the most



part, of tender years and as such subject to parental and school
discipline, rather than that meted out in a traffic courtroom. And
third, he leads a sort of a will-o'-the-wisp existence, unwanted on
the sidewalk and crowded from the street. Unlike the pedestrian,
in only rare instances in this country though frequently abroad has
the bicyclist been provided with special walks or paths.

Efforts have been made, both on state and municipal levels, to
regulate and to control the use of bicycles. By and large these efforts
have been successful in accomplishing their intended goals. The
primary objective of these efforts, aside from reduction of bicycle
accidents, was to bring home to the cyclist that he, too, has responsi-
bilities to other users of the street and that he, too, must make con-
tributions to his own well-being and safety.

Because it is the children who are riding our bicycles and because,
being children, they do not receive consideration and a voice in de-
termining their own rights and privileges, it behooves the rest of us
to look out for their best interest.

Bicycle accidents account for their proportionate share of traffic
fatalities and injuries. Every year for the past ten years approxi-
mately 500 bicycle riders have died in traffic accidents in the United
States. The high point was in 1941 when 910 cyclists were killed in

The one thing that brings the importance of the bicycle accident
problem forcibly home to those concerned with accident prevention
is the fact that 70 per cent of those killed each year are 14 years old
or younger, and that 84 per cent are less than 25 years old.

Like the pedestrian, the bicyclist is his own worst enemy. Special
studies have demonstrated that two out of every three bicyclists in-
jured or killed in traffic accidents were violating a traffic law at the
time of the accident. One out of five bicycles ridden in these acci-
dents studied was defective.

It is the educator and the enforcement officer who can do the most
toward safeguarding the bicyclist. Aside from a few isolated instances
where bicycle paths were installed, the highway engineers have done
very little to bring safety to the cyclist; and it is doubtful if there is
much they can do.

City after city has demonstrated that the number of bicycle acci-
dents can be reduced by a well-rounded program of accident analy-
sis, education, safety legislation, and enforcement. These measures
are interdependent. Analysis of accidents will prove valuable only
if used in an educational and enforcement program. Legislation
without education and enforcement is just so much wasted effort.

The registration and licensing of bicycles are generally accepted



as a strong link between the cyclist and his safety. Such legislation
takes cycling out of the "right to ride" class and puts it into the
"privilege to ride" class. When it is properly administered, a juvenile
bicyclist gets, along with his license plate, a deep realization that he
has suddenly become a part of the great scheme of things; that he
has become someone of importance with responsibilities and ob-
ligations. Many cities, large and small, have literally "cashed in"
on bicycle registration as a means of familiarizing the rider not only
with the bicycle regulations but also with traffic regulations gen-

Because a majority of all bicycle riders are of elementary and
high school age, the school systems afford an excellent medium for
bicycle safety education. Many school officials have more or less
assumed the obligation for the safeguarding of their cycling pupils.
Experience has proved that schools generally are willing and anxious
to cooperate with other agencies in matters pertaining to bicycle

Many of the educational suggestions contained herein for pedes-
trians are equally applicable to cyclists. To these suggestions might
be added such things as bicycle safety parades, bicycle field days,
bicycle-riding skill tests, and various safe-riding contests. Much lit-
erature and many posters are available which were designed to
appeal to bike riders. Parents must be educated as well as cyclists,
because cooperative parents can do much to surround their bicycle-
riding offspring with safeguards against accidents.

Until they can be "sold" on the importance and necessity of en-
forcing regulations against bicycle riders, police officers manifest a
reluctance to take action. This condition shows a need for another
type of education; that of our enforcement officials in the need for
bicycle safety. Irrespective of age, cyclists must be required to com-
ply with all regulations designed to promote safety. This enforce-
ment must come from the police. Because no one wants to "throw"
youngsters into an adult traffic court, and because most traffic judges
have no jurisdiction over juvenile offenders, special provisions have
been made in some localities.

Most common is the extra-legal practice of suspending bicycle
licenses for stated periods for reported violations, after informal
hearings with the parents in attendance. These suspensions usually
are the result of an agreement between parents and the police. An-
other effective procedure is the extra-legal special Saturday morning
juvenile traffic court with a police judge, sympathetic to the prob-
lem, presiding. Some police departments report juvenile bicycle

Online LibraryJean LabatutHighways in our national life; a symposium → online text (page 38 of 52)