Tips for Navigating Urban Spaces More Safely

It wasn’t all that long ago when the idea of navigating in a new city took a completely different mindset. Back then, it required a paper map or guide book, the ability to remember exactly how to get back to your hotel, and nerves of steel to make it through all the half-baked directions provided by your passenger with the map. Now, it can be as simple as telling the mapping app on your phone where you want to go and listening as it gives you step-by-step directions through your car’s Bluetooth speaker. 

It can certainly seem a lot easier to safely get around urban areas. In many ways, this is the truth; but there are still all sorts of pitfalls and danger zones that the unwitting tourist or spaced-out local can fall into. Pedestrian safety is still a major issue in the majority of urban areas and accidents are caused by both walkers and drivers not paying close enough attention. 

Whenever you are traveling around an urban area, there is plenty to keep in mind. Whether you are driving, biking, or walking, taking certain precautions can better protect you and your family. Here are a few things to think about incorporating into the way you navigate urban environments. 

Technology Can Be a Friend or an Enemy

There is no mistaking the fact that technology is changing the way we drive, the way to interact with cities, and really just about every other aspect of our lives. Things such as assisted parking, rearview cameras, and lane alignment monitoring have made our lives much easier and, in many cases, much safer. New developments such as self-driving cars and advances in public transportation may even take this a step further. 

But perhaps the most obvious advancement has been in GPS navigation. It is easy to set up your phone to allow you to navigate hands-free either by using a large screen or connecting to a screen built into your car. Even outside of our vehicles, we constantly use it to get ourselves around new places and to find the fastest route to places we may visit fairly often. 

Of course, these types of technologies are meant to make our experience easier, not alleviate us of the task altogether. GPS technology is a perfect example. Depending upon it too much can lead you into sketchy neighborhoods or onto bike lanes — it takes a certain level of common sense and no one should completely depend upon it to get around. Relying on technologies can reduce human interaction and change our perceptions of particular areas

You must also be aware of harmful biases that may result from these technologies. We know from experience that there can be bias in artificial intelligence (AI), as the people who create these systems may be implementing their own world views. As more and more smart tech and GPS systems rely on AI, there is the possibility for those biases to affect how they are working for you. These could problems such as giving you directions that avoid areas with specific demographics, or not suggesting ethnic foods when searching for nearby restaurants. 

It May Be Worth Recording

There are all sorts of crazy news reports these days about police officers not being fair with certain people they pull over — sometimes downright dangerous and deadly. People of color know this all too well, and knowing these situations can arise may be a sufficient reason to consider purchasing a dashcam for your vehicle. But there are a number of other reasons it could be a real benefit. 

For instance, dashcams can collect information both inside and outside of the car. The recording could be used to protect yourself if you are in an accident that wasn’t your fault. In fact, studies completed in the UK (where dashcams are rather common) indicated that traffic accidents and motor offenses have gone down substantially with the rise of dashcams. In big urban areas where people are in a hurry and not being cognizant of traffic laws, a dashcam could help anyone out tremendously. 

Even just having some sort of plan for recording things on your phone if needed when walking can help keep you safer. For instance, you may be witness to an accident and able to get recording and photos that help with documentation. Numerous videos always manage to surface of events where safety is a concern. 

Use Common Sense

Probably the single most important thing to keeping you and your family safe while navigating in an area (new or not) is to use common sense. Don’t do things like texting and driving, which very clearly makes just about everyone involved less safe. Pay attention to changes in traffic and upcoming signs that could clue you in to potential hazards. 

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Likewise, take steps to prevent yourself from getting road rage. We all know that it can be frustrating out there at times, but that is no reason to come off the chain. Aggressive driving behavior is responsible for a disturbing number of accidents every year. Don’t lose your temper and let yourself be one of those negative statistics. 

If you are a pedestrian or a bicyclist, be sure to follow your own set of rules and common-sense practices. For example, look both ways when crossing intersections, keep an eye on what the surrounding traffic is doing, and don’t get sucked into your phone just because you’re not behind the wheel. The fact of the matter is that nobody is looking out for you as a pedestrian, so you have to look out for yourself the best you can. 

Navigating through cities and other urban areas has become far less challenging than it used to be. Although there are numerous technologies that make our lives safer such as GPS and dash cams, it is always best to be vigilant when traveling through busy areas. Use common sense when driving, biking, or walking. 

Author: Sam Bowman