The Murder of George Floyd and the Responsibilities of Transportation Advocates

The Collector

June 5, 2020

George Floyd, like so many other Black men and women, was murdered by police in the street. The public right-of-way – space dedicated by society to allow the free movement of people through and between our communities – is all too often the site of violence directed toward people of color. This is no coincidence. The creation of modern police forces in American cities, the dramatic expansion of police powers, and the focusing of those powers on people of color with oppressive “law enforcement” activities can all be traced back directly to the rise of cars in the first half of the twentieth century. And, although it receives less attention, people of color are much more likely to be killed by cars while walking in the public right-of-way, even when police officers are nowhere around.

The street is also the site of much of the public protest against Floyd’s killing. The sanctity of automobility in our society is evidenced by the fact that blocking traffic is considered one of the most radical forms of protest, and many drivers apparently feel the right to use their vehicles as weapons to push through the crowds. In some cities, officials seem to be using the transportation system to punish protesters, stranding them at night by shutting down public transportation and bike share systems.

The transportation system is entangled with the devaluation of Black lives – and many other systemic inequities – in so many more ways than these. We have sometimes highlighted these issues in The Collector and other venues. But as transportation advocates and educators, we have not done nearly enough. Transportation space is historically, deeply, inextricably racialized, and we have often failed to call out racial inequities where they exist. Sometimes this is a result of a misguided sense of keeping our work focused and “staying in our lane” – but that’s no excuse when we know that racism pervades every street, sidewalk, trail and bike lane in the country.

We must do better. We will do better.

-Colin Fiske, Executive Director, CRTP

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The Collector is CRTP’s weekly transportation news roundup, published every Friday. We focus on North Coast news, but we also include relevant state, national and international transportation news – plus other items that we just find kind of interesting! To submit items for consideration, email