Pedestrian Safety: An Epidemic?

Pedestrian deaths have decreased 16% since 1998 according to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) fact sheet.  Yet, that hasn’t stopped a coalition of housing, business, environmental, public health, transportation, equitable development, and other organizations, who refer to their campaign as Transportation for America, from arguing that pedestrian deaths are an epidemic and preventable.
Transportation for America, working with the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership has released a report, Dangerous by Design, which examines the very issue of pedestrian safety across the United States.  The report finds that many metropolitan areas are lacking when it comes to spending on pedestrian safety projects.  They further cite poor design as a factor contributing to the deaths.  The campaign calls for improved traffic-calming and street design, complete streets, safe routes to school programs, and the development of walkable communities.
As it remains, pedestrian deaths do happen.  Many of these deaths occur in urban environments, which makes sense, considering the higher density of cars and people.  But is it a problem of design?  Are pedestrians able to cross effectively? Are motorists given enough warning to slow down?  This depends greatly on the intersection.  Yet, as the video below shows, there are examples of intersections that remain extremely hazardous to cross and are in need of improvement.
The video is from a Beverly Hills, California police operation meant to nab motorists who do not yield to pedestrians.  Perhaps you have experienced this as a pedestrian, as a motorist even.  Maybe such an intersection exists in your neighborhood.  These long crossings at major roadway arteries are common.  Should these intersections have flashing lights, easily identifiable markers, maybe even a stop light?  Some busy intersections in my neighborhood have giant flashing stop signs.  Simple, yet effective.
Motorists would like to stop less, while pedestrians want them to stop, period.  As a result some interesting design concepts are emerging in relation to pedestrian crosswalks.  One such idea, a crosswalk that conforms to the natural path a person walks.  The “ergo crosswalk” is the creation of designer Jae Min Lim, who contends, if regulations cannot force people to follow the law, wouldn’t it be more reasonable to change the law and fulfill the main purpose of keeping the safety and convenience of the pedestrian? (CityFix)
Photo: Designboom.com – Ergo Crosswalk
Crossings are only part of the battle, however. Volvo has taken it to their cars, designing a new model that has incorporated a feature meant to lower the risk of hitting a pedestrian.  The car will feature a camera behind the windshield with a sensor in the grill meant to scan for possible collisions.
What’s your solution?
Read On:
Transparency: The Most Dangerous Cities for Walking
The New York City Pedestrian Safety Study & Action Plan (Aug 10)
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