About Sara C. Bronin
Sara Bronin is a Professor at the Cornell School of Art, Architecture, and Planning, an Associate Member of the Cornell Law School Faculty, and a Faculty Fellow of the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability. Her interdisciplinary research focuses on how law and policy can foster more equitable, sustainable, well-designed, and connected places.
In addition to her books and treatises on land use and historic preservation law, she has written over two dozen articles on renewable energy, climate change, housing, urban planning, transportation, real estate development, and federalism. She also serves as the lead author of the land use volume of the forthcoming Restatement (Fourth) of Property. Among other current projects, Bronin leads the research team behind the Connecticut Zoning Atlas, the first interactive GIS map of all of the zoning regulations in a single state. Her book, Key to the City, under contract with W.W. Norton Press, will explore how zoning shapes our lives.
|Faculty Member, Cornell Law School
Property & Land Use (15)
Rewriting Our Nation's Final.pdf
Harvard Law Review Forum (2021)
Every day, Americans entrust their lives to a road system that is governed by the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways (theManual). On its face, this Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) publication is a straightforward technical document. It contains over eight hundred pages ofengineering guidance on everything from traffic-light placement to the font of highway signs. It also establishes acceptable methods for officials to modify speedlimits.While such provisions may sound inconsequential, some of the Manual’s provisions have far-reaching, even deadly, consequences. They prioritize vehicular speedover public safety, mobility over other uses of public space, and driving over other modes of mobility. With these car-centric priorities, the Manual has helpedgenerate a nearly constant and fast-moving stream of vehicle traffic that renders road users like pedestrians, wheelchair users, and cyclists vulnerable. Moreover, bygiving preference to driving over other modes of transportation, the Manual has indirectly facilitated a rise in transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions thatare the single largest contributor to climate change.Despite the evidence stacked against some of its most important provisions, the Manual has stubbornly endured — perhaps because it has been virtually unknownoutside of transportation engineering and urban planning. But over the past year, the Manual has finally started to receive the scrutiny it deserves. In 2020, the FHWA proposed a new draft of the Manual that would maintain the current version’s most outdated and discredited features. During a recently closed notice-and-comment process, the agency received over 26,500 comments. Even in the unlikely event that the agency rips up the proposed revisions and starts fresh, the core of the Manual will probably remain intact for years to come.This Essay explains how the Manual biases transportation behavior in dangerous and inequitable ways. It urges the FHWA touse its emergency powers to rescind its most damaging provision — the so-called 85th Percentile Rule, which legalizesdangerously high speeds of traffic — and to undertake a complete rewrite that follows a scientifically sound, evidence-basedapproach; prioritizes safety, access, equity, climate action, and prosperity; and incorporates feedback from diverse stakeholders.