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):

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Posted on May 28, 2015, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. ‘Smart transportation’ should not only involve pedestrians in the planning process, but planners and government should actively encourage walking & biking by giving a top priority to make these modes of transportation attractive, enjoyable, and safe — even when it makes things less convenient for drivers. (And a really smart approach to transportation would do the same for public transit.) —peter

    P.S. — Less driving would also mean less of the deadly ground-level ozone and fine particle pollution that damages the health of so many Valley residents!

  2. Peter, we are in total philosophical alignment with you! “Smart transportation” is multi-modal: walking, cycling, transit, motorized vehicles like cars and trucks, light rail and passenger rail. We need to have more balanced planning for all forms of transportation at every level of government…and more conversations on how they link together.

  3. Maybe we need a Transportation Policy Council…


  4. The biggest issue with Chestnut is the speed. 35mph is squarely in the STROAD zone. It should be 25mph through the downtown business district. As this article points out STROADS are esp dangerous for the elderly. It has come out in the last couple days that the person driving the car in this tragedy was an elderly man (80 years old) and his elderly wife. Totally and completely Heartbreaking.

  5. As the heartbroken forever mommy of Abbie Zukowski I live on a busy street in Emmaus so Abbie knew her safety when it came to the roads. She was taught at a very young age and realized the consequences as my husband is a Flight RN and unfortunately sees too many horrifying accidents . Abbie was also on safety patrol at school (by AAA) and helped cross kids and get kids to the bus . I know the police & borough were Very quick to blame these 2 11 year old girls . I went to a meeting w/ the assistant DA and they told us driver was not intoxicated or under the influence of alcohol yet he NEVER put his foot on the brake . Abbie was struck on the drivers side of the car which means both girl were well into the intersection when struck so he either wasn’t paying attention or b/c of his age he didn’t react either way when anyone gets behind the wheel of a car they are responsible. It is a state law to yield to pedestrians I am aware the police used the “darting out” excuse yet they were in the crosswalk in a 4 way intersection. In the police report the wife of the driver states that she saw the girls on the corner waiting to cross from quite a bit back . My question is so much blame was directed at Abbie & her friend which blows my mind . Abbie loved life was the youngest of my 4 children she completed our family she only saw the beauty in life she was so pure , didn’t like arguing or fighting ,I know everyone says their kids are perfect and was she perfect ? No but she was honestly as close as you can get without not being a human being , it has been 9 agonizing months since I last spoke to my Abbie Girl and not a day passes that I can function 100% I break down than I thought humanly possible & miss her SO much and feel so bad that she is missing out on life a part of me died with her as well as I can speak for the rest of my family as we are all missing a part of our hearts , it has changed our lives forever. She will not be forgotten and her death will not be HER fault . Drivers need to be responsible and make sure if they take medication that could affect driving but is needed to live then maybe driving is not a good idea or vision (when was the last time DMV checked vision ) Abbie was in a chorus concert the day she was killed and was wearing a white romper w/ navy flowers a d white sandals yet the police report states she is in all dark clothing .. My baby was killed by a driver accidentally but he should be liable.. The police were so insensitive and it was handled poorly to say the least she will be missed forever ..

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