Improving Our Dangerous Designs
A new report out by Transportation for America shows that the Eugene-Springfield Metro region is ranked the most dangerous for the number of preventable pedestrian deaths in Oregon and Lane County is the fourth-most dangerous county in the state. The report shows the 6 metro region’s (Bend, Corvallis, Eugene/Springfield, Medford, Portland/Vancouver/Beaverton, and Salem) total pedestrian fatalities as well as percent of all traffic deaths that were pedestrians from 2000 to 2009. Eugene/Springfield had 63 total fatalities, that’s nearly 2 fatalities per 100,000 people, the highest of all metro regions. It also showed that 15.4% of all traffic fatalities were pedestrians.
Clearly we can do better.
One of the biggest contributors to this crisis is the way streets are designed. An overwhelming proportion of pedestrian fatalities occur on roads designed for speeding traffic with little concern for pedestrians, lacking safe sidewalks, crosswalks, and signals. Sadly, it is the elderly, children and minorities who are killed and injured in disproportionate numbers, due to this failure to build roads with everyone’s safety in mind.
One project that is happening this summer that is working to make our streets safer for active transportation is the Eugene Schools Safe Routes to School Pedestrian and Bike Facilities project the City of Eugene is working on in conjunction with 4J. Included in that project are more than 15 pedestrian crossing improvements as well as speed reader signs, bike parking at schools, wayfinding signs, and improvements to path connectors.
Pedestrian safety is often perceived as a strictly local issue but for decades, federal dollars have been invested in thousands of miles of state and local highways. 67 percent of all 47,000+ pedestrian fatalities from 2000-2009 occurred on these federal-aid roadways — roads eligible to receive federal funding for construction and improvements with federal guidelines or oversight for design. Yet Congress is contemplating elimination of the two main programs for improving conditions and safety for walking and biking, including Safe Routes to School.
“Some in Congress have questioned the federal interest in keeping pedestrians safe, believing it to be a strictly local issue,” said James Corless, director of Transportation for America. “But 67 percent of all pedestrian fatalities in the last 10 years occurred on federal-aid roads — roads eligible to receive federal funding and with federal guidelines or oversight for design.”
Eugene is working hard to make changes to make more transportation options available to more people but it can’t correct the mistakes of past federal spending on roads without that same type of funding there to help fix the problem.