History is rife with stories of immense cruelty, especially against the former masters, when the slave becomes the master. Sometimes the accession follows some discovery of royal or noble birth, but more often it follows revolution, the taking of power. But regardless, the slave is not usually very kind to the former masters.

The automobile was designed to replace the horse as a way for individuals to move around their towns and cities, but in the New America it was the key to the American Dream – an estate in the country and access to a city filled with employment, entertainment and culture. New highways were the blood vessels connecting the two and affording the Americans their dream.

So while the kingdom of the car was the highway, both the city and the estate (and the aggregation of estates we call the suburbs) were the province of the human being. To reinforce this relationship – that is, to remind the car that it was the slave and the human the master in these environments – both the city and the suburbs made pedestrian movement primary. Wherever space was limited, it was the automobile that was excluded. The servant found someplace to wait until it was needed again.

Of course that means the planners of these environments had a commitment to the supremacy of the human being in these places, and in the so-called “developed” world, they still do. They still understand that, for example, in the city, the importance of pedestrian movement at pedestrian speeds to commerce makes the sidewalk more important than the shop. A sidewalk full of people is the promise of good business. In the suburbs, the ability to offer safe pedestrian movement around neighbourhoods nets developers huge profits. The idea of sharing circulation space with a 2000-pound metal monster is, for most people, unacceptable.

On the other hand, in the Bahamas, the monster has claimed the throne. Whether in the city or the suburbs, it has demanded, and gotten supremacy not only on the arteries, but also on the veins and capillaries of our systems of movement. Subdivisions are routinely designed for vehicular movement only, whether up-scale or low-cost. The monster threatens the humans, and the humans bow. Where there are sidewalks, they are the relics of a past age (although precious), not a commitment to the movement of pedestrians through their own environment, or the result of individual pressure on government, satisfied by token efforts (although appreciated). In most instances, the monster plays a game of bowling, with humans as pins.

There is a need to reclaim both the urban and the suburban areas for people. Policy-makers must begin the inclusion of strategies for pedestrian prominence in their planning; they must lead the revolution against the automobile to win back our environments and to again make the upstart our slave, committed to the satisfaction of our community needs. How can we speak of a safe environment if we must watch for the ambush by a car on the way to our neighbour’s house a block away? A safe environment begins with a safe way to move about your own environment, which means not sharing that path with a metal monster. All hail pedestrians!

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