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Dangers facing Austin pedestrians

On top of heat cramps, heat stroke, heart attack, dehydration, and good old heat exhaustion, summer walkers also have cars to worry about.
In Austin throughout 2012, 28 pedestrians were killed on Austin roadways and three cyclists. There were 12 auto v. pedestrian crashes in 2010 and 22 in 2011. One third of the pedestrian deaths have happened along side I-35 typically in lower income areas.
While Austin does not have any direct studies showing a correlation between poverty and walking deaths other states are investigating this phenomenon.
In fact, Newark, New Jersey Research from “Rutgers University has shown a strong correlation between low income neighborhoods and high pedestrian crash totals. Daniel Kravetz, who conducted the research as a graduate student, says “The higher the income level, the lower the likelihood for crashes to occur in an area.” It may seem logical to conclude that the wealthier residents are equipped with cars and simply don’t walk the streets of Newark as often. But Kate Hinds points out that pedestrian infrastructure is a major factor in the Newark accident rates. Intersections in many low income neighborhoods are lacking crosswalks, pedestrian signals, curb cuts and sidewalks.” The Dangers of Walking While Poor, JERINBRENT .
So that makes things even more tricky, walking while poor a new extreme sport. The research goes on to say that really the danger is in the lack of infrastructure for those needing to walk to get from point A to point B on surfaces that are made to keep pedestrians out of and away from the flow of vehicle traffic. Infrastructure is the key word here. Then there are the dangers of walking alone. Walking while texting we know to be dangerous, after all you have to be able to see where you are going. Then there is the danger of walking on ice, walking home alone, and the often unmentioned danger of walking too little.
I have been doing it all my life and taking for granted just how dangerous walking can be. I say this in all seriousness.
The Washington Post reported “In 2010, there were 32,885 traffic deaths in the United States, according to a new brief (pdf) from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Roughly 13 percent of those, or 4,280, were pedestrians. That’s down considerably from a decade ago, but it’s also up slightly since 2009. As NHSTA puts it: “On average, a pedestrian was killed every two hours and injured every eight minutes in traffic crashes.”
The same Washington Post article cites drunk driving responsible for 14% of pedestrian deaths. The real culprit even in this article is again, “more than 52 percent of the 47,067 pedestrians killed… between 2000 and 2009 died on principal or minor arterials. These wide, straight roads are often extremely hostile to pedestrians. They feature little to no facilities for walking, so drivers aren’t looking for people on foot.” Id. In other words, lack of infrastructure.

So, in a time when our nation is at an all time high for incidence of diabetes: According to the American Diabetes Association data from 2011 says, “ 25.8 million children and adults in the United States—8.3% of the population—have diabetes.”
When we need to be walking and riding our bikes the most, we keep focusing on motor vehicle sustainability. While our Interstate highway system is part of the reason we are an economic superpower, along with our railroads, shipping capabilities, and air transport, it is also bringing to life a too real version of Disney Pixar’s Wall-E. Interestingly, if you have been to Disney World or Disneyland lately you will also notice, this is the only production that is conspicuously enough not advertised, except by the number of humans being transported by mobility scooters. In Burlington County New Jersey the belief is that stiffer penalties for law violators will be the cure. While other sources say anything from drivers being more responsible road scanners to the opposite extreme where some folks actually say people shouldn’t be walking at all!

In this writer’s humble opinion, there are far too many preventable accidents and crashes out there. Creating infrastructure is key, especially in neighborhoods where you have higher ratios of people moving around on foot. Alcohol consumption and responsible serving of alcohol has got to be a goal insisted upon by the citizenry and the citizenry can get there with citizen alliances insisting upon harsher sentencing, stiffer penalties, and more policing of establishments that serve alcohol as well as policing roadways during the hours when most of the alcohol related incidents occur. Certainly there are more creative solutions out there and we can get there, as soon as we respect original transportation (bi-peds) as viable, necessary, worthy, and worth the tax dollars to protect because after all, who can actually argue that they simply don’t walk.
Then there is the no brainer stuff. People…..Pay Attention When You Are Driving Your Car or Truck. We the people may be walking, jogging, or riding our bikes there…..

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