After decades of building wide, car-friendly streets, Valley cities are taking steps to make things safer and friendlier for pedestrians. Arizona, and the Valley in particular, has had a chronic problem with pedestrian fatalities and very little progress has been made over the past fifteen years according to the Arizona Department of Transportation’s annual Crash Facts report. The report shows that Arizona had 153 statewide pedestrian deaths in 1997, 166 pedestrian deaths in 2001, and 154 deaths in 2011. In contrast, national pedestrian fatalities have been steadily falling according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics. National pedestrian fatalities dropped 19.6 percent from 5,321 in 1997 to 4,280 in 2010. Phoenix ranks fourth in pedestrian deaths on a list of American cities, behind New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago.
Valley cities are taking many steps to improve road safety for pedestrians. One of their newest tools is the “High-Intensity Activated Crosswalk” or “HAWK.” These crosswalks consist of three lights that are activated by pedestrians in the intersection. The walk signal is given just long enough for someone to cross the street, so HAWKs have the advantage of not disrupting traffic as long as traditional crosswalks
Each city is tackling the issue of pedestrian safety in its own way. Tempe, for example, has added HAWKs at two canal crossings at McClintock Drive and Rural Road as well as widening sidewalks and adding landscaping to downtown streets. Mesa has installed traditional crosswalks at popular canal crossings that intersect with major streets. The city is also in the process of narrowing Main Street to one lane through downtown to hopefully cut traffic, increase pedestrian safety, and work in conjunction with the light rail extension. Peoria has added two-stage crosswalks and widened sidewalks near several schools. Underpasses have also been installed along the New River multiuse path to separate pedestrians and cyclists from traffic. Scottsdale is taking steps to widen sidewalks and move them further from the curb while also installing tunnels and bridges to keep bicycle and pedestrian paths separated from vehicular traffic. Four HAWKs have been installed across the city to protect pedestrians crossing busy streets in shopping districts and equestrian trails in North Scottsdale.
Despite all the efforts by Valley cities to make the roads safer for pedestrians, the public must also do their part. Without mutual respect and awareness between drivers and pedestrians, even the most advanced crosswalks are useless. Drivers should avoid being distracted by their cell phones and not operate their vehicles while impaired by drugs or alcohol. Pedestrians likewise should maintain good situational awareness and only cross at marked street crossings. Jaywalking is incredibly dangerous for pedestrians because drivers are usually not watching for pedestrians crossing midblock or at unpredictable locations and are usually accelerating.
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Walsh, J. (2012, October 10). Arizona road-safety focus switches to pedestrians. The Arizona Republic. Retrieved from http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/news/articles/2012/10/02/20121002arizona-road-safety-focus-switches-pedestrians.html
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