Chicago’s Metra “On The Bi-Level” newsletter had an inadvertent doozy this month. Normally I’m not one to read too much into word selection, but in this case it is warranted. First, we have a complaint about a sidewalk:

I was told by a Berwyn alderman that it is Metra’s decision to close the crosswalk on the BNSD that’s two blocks east of Harlem for “safety reasons.” … I have already seen four instances of people running and crossing at Harlem with gates down and in front of express trains! Yes, you are actually endangering people.

Here is the newsletter’s response:

It is for safety reasons. And we can hardly be blamed for endangering people who willfully go around crossing gates.

When you’re designing a safety feature, be it for an air traffic control system, a financial web site, or the layout of a train station, it is best to design for people as they actually are, not the way you wish they were. Design is a series of trade offs, and the proper way to evaluate closing a crosswalk is “how many people die with the cross walk” vs. “how many people die without the cross walk”.

Of course, that’s if you are interested in keeping people safe, not avoiding blame.

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