12 January 2014

Pedestrian Fatalities

That would be pedestrians killed by cars.  Because let's face it, pedestrians aren't killed in collisions with each other.  One pedestrian in New York was killed in a collision with a cyclist several years ago, and what with the publicity surrounding the event, you'd be forgiven for thinking it was part of a plague of bike-related pedestrian deaths.  But no, as far as I can tell that one was a unique event, in the actual unmodified sense of the word.

Pedestrians are routinely killed by cars, however.  It seems every week there's another report of a kid killed in NYC, usually crossing at an intersection in the company of a parent or older sibling.  The number of pedestrians killed in traffic accidents in New York State has been static over the past five years, hovering at around 300 deaths a year.

And most of the time, the driver isn't charged.  Unless the driver leaves the scene, or is drunk or on drugs, he (usually) apologizes, expresses his horror, and walks away.

Under Bloomberg, New York City's response to pedestrian deaths was to put in new traffic signals, with countdowns telling pedestrians it was time to get out of the way.  But the problem that pedestrians cross the street at the same time that cars turn from cross streets was not addressed.

There is no time when pedestrians are the only legal occupants of crosswalks: they always have to compete with motor vehicles.

So there's a simple solution: the city needs to re-time the lights, so that there are opportunities for people to cross without having to compete with turning cars.

Limiting street parking near intersections would also help, as it can now be difficult to see if someone is in a crosswalk when turning from a cross street.

This is going to be my advocacy issue of the year: letters, phone calls, blog entries until you're sick of them devoted to trying to persuade public officials to make real infrastructure changes to end this plague of pedestrian deaths.

Are you with me?