3 takeaways from Austin’s draft pedestrian safety plan

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As part of Austin’s Vision Zero plan aimed at eliminating traffic fatalities, city staffers released Tuesday a draft of the pedestrian safety action plan.

The Vision Zero plan, which City Council approved in May 2016, called for developing mode-specific plans, including for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists.

“Pedestrians make up around one-third of traffic fatalities so we wanted to focus on them first,” city Pedestrian Coordinator Joel Meyer said. “… Pedestrian crashes have been on the rise nationally, and that’s true here, too.”

The new pedestrian safety plan recommends 21 action items to improve the safety of residents walking throughout the city. These recommendations would be achieved through a variety of efforts, including street engineering, education, enforcement, land-use planning and partnerships with other agencies.

Austin pedestrian safety action plan

The plan identifies six behaviors that can cause a pedestrian crash. (via Courtesy city of Austin)

Nearly 1,900 pedestrians were involved in crashes between 2010 and 2015, and of those, 121 people died, according to city data. The plan also identifies six behaviors that contribute to pedestrian crashes: failure to yield, distraction or inattention, impairment, improper maneuvers, speed and failure to stop.

Residents have through Aug. 31 to review and provide comments on the draft plan. More information about the plan and providing feedback is available at www.austintexas.gov/pedsafetyplan.

Austin pedestrian safety action plan

The city will use these risk characteristic scores to help identify streets with physical characteristics that contribute to the severity of a pedestrian crash. (via Courtesy city of Austin)

Here are 3 takeaways from the plan:

1. Street design is a large component of making it safer for pedestrians
“A lot of U.S. cities design cities around cars, and walking is not always the best option for people,” Meyer said. “One thing we want to do is look at where we could do low-cost treatments to make crossing [a street]a little bit safer.”

Some of these treatments include installing pedestrian hybrid beacons that allow a pedestrian to push a button to activate a signal that halts traffic to allow the person to safely cross the street.

Meyer said the department is also looking to add signage, lighting and pedestrian islands that would allow someone to take refuge in the middle of a wide street instead of crossing the width all at once.

2. The transportation department will deploy Vision Zero street teams in the next few months
These teams will be educating the public about the purpose and goals of Vision Zero, Meyer said.

“We’re trying to [achieve]behavior change by reaching out into the community,” he said.

3. Areas with higher numbers of low-income, minority populations have higher rates of pedestrian crashes
Austin’s rising housing prices have pushed these populations toward the city’s outskirts where roads are not best suited for walking, Meyer said.

“A lot has to do with street design,” he said. “… We want to look at those factors when we’re looking at where to make improvements.”

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Amy Denney
Amy has been reporting in community journalism since 2007. She worked in the Chicago suburbs for three years before migrating south and joined Community Impact Newspaper in September 2010. Amy has been editor of the Northwest Austin publication since August 2012 and she is also the transportation beat reporter for the Austin area.
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