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DC Used to Fly the Skull and Cross-Bones to Mark Each Traffic Death

8:27 AM PDT on April 5, 2016

My, how things change.

This news clip from 1939 shows at one time D.C. took every traffic death very seriously. Can it happen again? Clip: Washington Post via CouncilofDC
A Washington Post report from 1938. Image via CouncilofDC
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It's always revealing to go back and look at how Americans responded to traffic deaths before they were regarded as an unavoidable aspect of everyday life. The era when the loss of lives to traffic violence was regarded with widespread shock and revulsion has almost faded from living memory.

Here's a glimpse of how different things were nearly 80 years ago in Washington, DC. David Alpert at Greater Greater Washington writes:

The excellent @councilofdc Twitter account, the official one for the District's legislature, tweeted, "Back in 1938, the DC government and the Washington Post ran death flags up a pole if someone died in a car crash."

Only recently, with Vision Zero, are governments like DC's making it a serious priority to end traffic deaths. But there are eighty years of cultural expectations around street design and driving speed which make it difficult to really design streets for safety.

Elsewhere on the Network today: The Urban Edge interviews an author who argues that Phoenix shouldn't be dismissed as a "sustainable city." Seattle Bike Blog has photos of people on bikes taking over two area highways for a big group ride over the weekend. And Bike Walk Lee posts an update on the exciting, TIGER-funded project to redesign streets in Lee County, Florida, for safer walking and biking.

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