Golden oldie, no less vital: “Attacking the Language Bias in Transportation Engineering.”

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Cartoon by Ian Lockwood. 

My advice stays the same.

Print this 2013 article on card stock. Roll it up and add a rubber band. The next time Pinocchio Rosenbarger rises at a public meeting to defend a Gahanian campaign finance clip job, apply the article to Rosenbarger’s cheek in a vigorous upward arc.

Congratulations. You’ll have struck a blow against auto-centrism in New Albany.

Attacking the Language Bias in Transportation Engineering, by Angie Schmitt (Streetsblog)

“Improvement.” “Upgrade.” “Level of Service.” The traffic engineering profession is full of buzzwords laden with meaning — and, for the most part, the embedded meaning is something to the effect of “cars are king.”

Ian Lockwood, P.E., has been working in the engineering profession for 30 years. He served as the chief transportation official for the city of West Palm Beach, Florida, before joining the engineering firm AECOM as a consultant and completing a Loeb Fellowship at Harvard.

Lockwood is on a mission to reform the way his profession uses language. I got a chance to sit down with him last week at the Congress for New Urbanism conference in Salt Lake City. Here’s what he had to say …

As New Albanians ruefully recall, it was called the East Main Street IMPROVEMENT Project.

AS: Can you give us some examples of biased words?

IL: Probably the one we hear the most is “improvement.” When a conventional traffic engineer talks about an improvement, often it might mean a widening. It’s hard to argue against an “improvement,” because it’s a subjectively labeled word and it implies it’s getting better, even though it might not be getting better for all the user groups. It contains a bias for the automobile user over and above the other folks.

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