by Travis Mateer
I don’t think the spike in pedestrian deaths, as reported two weeks ago by the New York Times, is being driven by reckless drivers and fraying social norms, as this headline suggests.
As I was talking loudly on the phone in the middle of Target about my theory of mental instability and the corrosive impact of non-prosecutions from County Attorneys, like our very own Kristen Pabst, the woman who lowered her mask to speak to me (I was preparing for a scolding) VERY MUCH agreed with what I was saying.
So, what’s my counter theory on the surge in fatalities that now includes a tragic loss of life in Missoula that resulted from the impact of a Mountain Line bus?
Before I get to how Covid may have impacted this number, let me first reference my time working at the homeless shelter (I do this a lot because new readers might not know I often draw conclusions from direct experiences) because the way clients interact with traffic was a significant concern voiced by the Missoula community when the Poverello Center moved from its previous location downtown to the busy West Broadway corridor.
To explain why that concern is real, I’m going to risk engaging in stereotypes, which some might find stigmatizing. Even worse, by describing my personal frustrations, I’ll ALSO sound very insensitive at times.
The prospect of a mentally ill person being killed by a vehicle first became a distinct possibility for me, as the Homeless Outreach Coordinator, with one particular woman who considered herself invisible and thus impervious to the dangers of traffic. She demonstrated this by showing no regard whatsoever for “streets” and the death machines hurling down them.
I video taped this woman’s theory of invisibility in order to help make the legal case for involuntary commitment to the state hospital (which is currently in total crisis). Since that time, over the years, I have seen people of various cognitive abilities ignore crosswalks in ways that are absolutely reckless in this area of Missoula.
When I worked at the shelter, I did what I could to redirect jaywalkers to the crosswalks just west and east of the shelter, but the vast majority I spoke with didn’t give a shit. They wanted to go straight from the shelter to the other side of the street, where the bridge to no where connects west broadway to “the island”, which provides scenic spots for the raunchier elements of the homeless population to shoot meth and rape their unconscious peers.
What I think is happening is this: the contrived pandemic accelerated the already existing trends of non-prosecution and jail-reduction that might sound good to criminal justice reformers but, in reality, without effective alternative programs for chronic offenders, the result is more chaos and anarchy on urban streets.
Back in June of 2020, we got a peek into the rationale for using Covid to “overhaul” county jails. From the link:
Criminal justice system reformers for years have sought to reduce county jail and state prison populations in Montana. The COVID-19 pandemic has sped up the process, mostly at county detention facilities across the state.
Jordan Gross is giving a lot of thought to a graduate seminar on criminal justice reform she’ll teach this fall. Gross is a law professor at the University of Montana. It’s on her mind because the COVID-19 pandemic has, in certain ways, had significant impacts already.
“What we’ve seen is that if the criminal justice system wants to react swiftly and effectively, it can. It illustrates just the tremendous amount of discretion that is baked into the system. There was no change in the law. There was a change in policy,” Gross says over Zoom.
That change in policy led to rapid reductions in county jail populations across the state in March and April. State and local officials got behind calls to release as many non violent offenders as possible.
Now, I’m not saying the solution is keeping humans in cages. I would LOVE for their to be the appropriate amount of help out there for anyone who needs it, like REAL supportive housing with ACTUAL wrap-around services, but what exists in terms of tangible help in a state like Montana is a fucking joke.
The pedestrian who was killed by the impact of a Mountain Line bus was likely under the influence of alcohol, authorities are saying.
According to Police Public Information Officer Lydia Arnold, the accident involved a bus and pedestrian. The preliminary investigation indicates the deceased pedestrian was intoxicated.
If there is anyone who witnessed this accident and has not spoken to law enforcement, please contact Detective Bare at 406-552-6281. This investigation is ongoing and KGVO will provide more information when it becomes available.
Of course alcohol was involved. Lots of tragedies and violence and misery have alcohol as the common denominator, but alcohol is the lifeblood of downtown, so a dead pedestrian is an acceptable cost of doing booze-business downtown.
Instead of focusing on what kind of unstable pedestrians might be saturating city streets, the tragedy of a young boy killed in New Mexico provided an opportunity to focus on the vehicular side of the fatality equation. This is from that NYT article linked at the top of the post:
The streets of Albuquerque, where Pronoy Bhattacharya was killed in the hit-and-run, showcase the challenges that pedestrians face. Around the sprawling metro area, home to almost one million people, drivers routinely run red lights or speed past stop signs. Cars without license plates abound on Albuquerque’s roads.
Despite such behavior, residents say they can go years without seeing drivers pulled over for violations of any kind. After the boy’s death, readers flooded The Albuquerque Journal with emails assailing local authorities after having witnessed lawless driving on a daily basis.
Why the focus on vehicles? Because this focus has an agenda behind it, and that agenda is for cities to go carless. Here’s a Bloomberg article from 2019 that highlights what I’m talking about:
In the U.S., we have seen a rapid rise in biking, and now e-scooters, in our cities. With this, there is increasingly a feeling that the geometry of space shouldn’t favor one very large mode of transportation over others that need room to grow and flourish. The use of shared bikes and scooters has grown tremendously in just a short period of time—more than double the number of trips between 2017 and 2018—with 84 million shared micromobility journeys taking place last year. In 2019 this number has only continued to grow, reinforcing the need for greater space for mobility choices.
Today, we see a growing movement in cities throughout the world to stem the usage of cars and close streets to unmitigated traffic. The two most prominent examples in the U.S. are New York City, with the closing of 14th Street, and San Francisco, which will soon close Market Street to cars.
That’s right, drivers of vehicles, your time on the streets of US cities is apparently numbered. Even in a town like Missoula, where snow and slush and cold temperatures make the utopian delusion of a multi-modal transportation network a ridiculous pipe-dream, that won’t stop the tax-addicted visionaries from exploiting tragedies and demanding more tax money to radically transform the world into a globalist wet dream of panopticon surveillance and diminished freedom of mobility.
I’m sure there’s nothing to worry about. Just be a good citizen, unlike those pesky Russians, and your convenient electronic payment methods for local transit will NEVER be disrupted.
Thanks for reading.