In a small conference room tucked away in the northeast corner of the United States, I sat amidst a group of firefighters, police officers, and secret agents of the United States. We were looking at emerging risks. These included the Internet of things, the biotech revolution, and the autonomous revolution. These advanced technologies will provide us with ease and comfort, but they’re also going to tax our ability to secure our school campuses and our cities. With every great revolution comes challenges. Our desire for safer cities is no different.
If you have wandered the streets of Long Beach or even Palm Desert, you will notice a change in urban development. We have been striving to make our roads safer and our air cleaner by turning to bikes and scooters. Much like Amsterdam has done. While that all sounds and smells good on the surface, the dumpster is filling up in the parking lot.
Amsterdam built streets around bikes, not the other way around. This is a distinguishing factor when you look at the size of our fire engines and roads. We have been swapping bike lanes and parking spots for a layer of protection and thus pushing cards farther and farther into the street. This narrows the street and limits the ability of the fire truck to make turns.
See, when a bike lane is in the traffic, yes, it places the bike user in harm’s way, but the biker moves and keeps moving. The path remains open during emergencies. When you swap that with a parked car, the car creates a literal roadblock and reduces the ability of the fire and police to get to calls. New York is drowning in these narrow streets.
As a risk manager, you have to ask yourself where is the real risk. The small chance that a biker is hit and dies or the bigger chance that the person having the stroke, heart attack or gunshot wound dies because of the delay of EMS to make it to the call. The choice is seriously in your city planner and engineers’ hands.