Every now and again I read a news story about an unfortunate accident where a pedestrian was struck and killed by a motorist. There will usually be discussions ranging from people who are saddened to hear such tragic news, to those who are appalled when the driver gets off without even a ticket, to those who use their apparent logic to say that the pedestrian was asking for it by not paying attention. I’m of the opinion that a good deal of pedestrian infrastructure is set up to leverage liability onto the pedestrian in case of a collision.
Think about it: Push-button crosswalks force pedestrians to wait minutes at a time to cross the street (please, cars, can I please cross your street?!), and when these are on all the corners of a grid-patterned street network, it’s just not reasonable to have to wait several minutes at every intersection… which is why people jay-walk CONSTANTLY. Here’s another example, the crosswalk signs say “WALK” and “DON’T WALK”; when it’s the pedestrian’s turn to cross the street “WALK” illuminates for 5 to 10 seconds and then “DON’T WALK” starts to flash until it stops and it is no longer safe for the pedestrian to be in the crosswalk. Disregarding the psychological negativity of the sign saying “DON’T WALK” 90% of the time, if I’m a driver who glances over at the crosswalk sign and my eye catches “DON’T WALK” so I think it’s safe to turn, I may hit a pedestrian, and I may be able to defend myself saying that I saw the sign say “DON’T WALK”; how was I supposed to know that people were crossing the street in my blind spot?
And let’s not get into areas of the city that don’t have sidewalks so pedestrians are forced to either walk on the shoulder or in the street… how well does a wheelchair do on a grassy shoulder compared to a paved street?
Here’s the good news: In downtown you’re less likely to be killed as a pedestrian if you get hit by a car than if you are hit on one of the major arterial streets in the city (May, 23rd, Penn, Reno, etc.). Do you know why? Speed limits. Sure, you can’t guarantee that people will obey the posted speed, but the difference between the number of pedestrian deaths on roads below and above 30 mph is staggering.
Since 2003 there have been 1,401 pedestrian collisions and an even 100 pedestrian fatalities in Oklahoma City. Of these 1,401 collisions, 953 occurred in areas of the city with sidewalks resulting in 51 fatalities. The remaining 448 collisions occurred in areas without sidewalks, resulting in 49 deaths.
|This is a map of the pedestrian collisions since 2003. Fatalities are the big red dots.|
Let’s break that down by the percentage of collisions that are fatal:
51/953 = 5.4% fatality rate in areas with sidewalks
49/448 = 10.9% fatality rate in areas without sidewalks
You are twice as likely to be killed in a collision in areas of the city that do not have sidewalks.
Less people walk in these areas, but virtually the same number are killed, because the same roads that don’t have good sidewalks also have higher speed limits. THEY ARE DESIGNED FOR CARS ONLY.
94% of the 100 fatalities occurred on streets with a speed limit of 30 mph or higher. Another fun fact, 47% of the 100 deaths involved alcohol; unfortunately the data doesn’t tell whether that means the driver or the pedestrian were under the influence of, but it’s clear that it’s safer to be sober when on the roads, whether you’re driving or walking.
Below is a map that breaks the city into 1-mile squares and illustrates the areas of the city where the most accidents occur. The map below that shows the likelihood that being hit by a car as a pedestrian will result in death based on the ODOT severity of incident scale (1 means no injury, 5 means a fatality) based upon the number of pedestrian collisions that occur in the area. Though the majority of accidents occur in the downtown area, it’s clearly more dangerous to be a pedestrian further out from downtown.
|The two red squares in the middle of the map are over downtown.|
|This map makes it very clear that pedestrians should be very careful on major arterials and to stay away from highways!|
We need safer streets for everyone.