Smart Transportation Should Involve Pedestrians
Every year in America, thousands of pedestrians die in motor vehicle accidents.
In 2013, 4,735 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes, according the U.S. Department of Transportation. Judging by historical data, 2015 will probably see a similar number of deaths.
Instead of numbers, let’s focus on two names: Abbie Zukowski and Anna Lewis, both victims of recent fatal pedestrian crashes in the Lehigh Valley.
Anna, an Allentown grandmother, was killed in a horrifying hit-and-run crash March 15 on Airport Road.
Abbie died after being struck by a car May 18 in her hometown of Emmaus, a few blocks from her elementary school.
Her death is particularly poignant because Emmaus has worked on a multi-pronged strategy to improve pedestrian safety over the last two decades.
The circumstances behind the two accidents are different, but they both underscore the same point: the issue of pedestrian safety urgently needs our attention.
It’s not enough to just give pedestrians tips on how to walk more safely.
We can’t tell people “Use crosswalks” and “Wear bright clothing” and then continue to build out communities that don’t have sidewalks or those that regularly experience unsafe vehicle speeds.
We can’t shake our heads after a fatal accident and say “They shouldn’t have been walking there.”
Instead, we need to push for improvements that make travel safer for people behind the wheel and on foot. When we make communities safer for pedestrians, we make them safer for everyone.
Here are five ways to accomplish this, courtesy of the American Public Health Association (APHA):
- Reduce speeds. According to a report by Smart Growth America, 61 percent of fatal pedestrian crashes happened on roads with speed limits of 40 mph or more.
- Improve your street design. Streets in both rural and urban communities should be designed for vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists, and should accommodate people with disabilities. RenewLV supports Complete Streets as a concept that makes sense for all municipalities to adopt. Municipalities should consider planting street trees and instituting “road diets” in order improve their community’s safety and sense of place.
- Work together. Local government, law enforcement agencies, LANta and PennDOT should all have the same vision for making traffic safer, with input from the community as well. Improvements and enforcement are both equally important.
- Keep kids safe. This is our responsibility as adults. While child pedestrian deaths dropped between 2002 and 2012, that’s more of a function of fewer kids playing outside rather than the result of some larger public safety policy. Programs like Safe Routes to School make it safer for kids to walk and bike. Kids walking and biking to school has numerous health and community benefits, too, and should be encouraged.
- Encourage alternative transportation. “When walking biking and public transportation programs are strong, they’re in the public eye — making them more visible to drivers,” the APHA says. Public transportation — along with walking and biking — can also reduce the number of drivers on the road, leading to a better air quality, a citizenry getting more exercise and a healthier community overall.
By the time you read this, another Lehigh Valley family could have gotten the same horrific phone call the Lewis and Zukowski families got. It’s not a pleasant thought, but statistics aren’t on our side.
That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to be done. You can campaign in your community for planning that accommodates vehicles as well as pedestrians. You can petition your public officials to support alternative transportation.
At RenewLV, we’re committed to smart transportation. That means making sure people get where they’re going safely, no matter how they choose to get there.