Last week’s news that the Transportation for America’s report Dangerous by Design indicated that the Providence-Fall River-New Bedford region has spent the most federal dollars by percentage on pedestrian facilities ($4.01 per capita between 2005-2008) seems to also indicate that RI has the highest incidence of pedestrian fatalities in New England and is fourth in the country (only Hawaii, NY and NJ were higher).
From today’s Projo article:
Janis Loiselle, the administrator of the state Office of Highway Safety, said she couldn’t explain the high fatality rates in Rhode Island compared with other states. …
She said her agency is trying to reduce the number of fatalities among the elderly by teaching them, for example, how to cross a street safely. One helpful technique, she said, is making eye contact with an approaching driver. She also said she’s planning to try to make elderly persons more visible by distributing small orange flags for them to carry.
While I am all for eye contact and using crosswalks, I think it is sad that we put the emphasis on the pedestrian being more visible. The reality is that pedestrian infrastructure is an afterthought in most federally funded infrastructure projects and is the first casualty of “value engineering”. Suggesting that our elderly men and women carry orange flags as they wait for the broken crosswalk signal to change only piles on the erosion of dignity we allow ourselves as upright walking humans.
As cyclists, we should be vigilant of this and align ourselves with efforts at spending public money for real pedestrian measures – urban design that forces vehicle to reduce speeds. It is also in our collective interests to push for better enforcement of traffic laws and stiffer penalties for negligent driving that result in death or injury.