Several projects are in the works, and can’t come soon enough
Late on Wednesday, January 24, a driver struck and killed a man crossing the 2100 block of Liberty Ave in the Strip District.
“Preliminary investigation indicates the victim stepped off the sidewalk and was not in a designated crosswalk.”
The initial reports quoted comments from Public Safety that the pedestrian didn’t cross at the crosswalk, essentially casting the blame on the victim. Case closed in the public’s mind.
Making premature statements before the investigation of a fatality is complete is not best practice, as we literally can’t hear the victim’s side of the story and sets a potentially false narrative that it was the pedestrian’s fault. There are many variables that still need to be investigated before going public with a narrative, especially considering that we may only have the testimony of the driver.
When you take a closer look, a different picture may emerge. From street design to behavior, there is often more than one factor involved in a crash, especially a fatal one.
Was the driver speeding? Were they looking at their phone? Is there good lighting? Was there even a crosswalk available? If so, how far away was it?
Looking at the 2100 block of Liberty Ave shows a mid-block bus shelter with limited sidewalk access, and getting there would require a pedestrian to walk a significant additional distance and time to “properly” use the existing crosswalks. Additionally, drivers often break the 25 mph speed limit because of how wide the road was built, which is dangerous for pedestrians wherever they are. Unsurprisingly, the Strip District crash count is reflective of this dynamic.
Road fatalities are preventable. Humans are imperfect and make mistakes, but our streets need to be designed to be less deadly. This starts by ensuring that we’re not prioritizing the speed of cars over the safety of pedestrians.
This tragedy highlights the need for Complete Streets designs in the Strip District, a quickly growing neighborhood that is continuing to be planned and developed for motor vehicles at the expense of those walking, taking transit and biking. Between speeding cars, sidewalk gaps and bike lanes that end, the current infrastructure is failing the needs of people who visit the Strip District without a car.
Opportunities on the horizon that can’t be built fast enough.
Our thoughts are with the victim’s loved ones during this unimaginably difficult time.
And, thankfully, opportunities are on the horizon to create a more pedestrian and bike friendly Strip District. The neighborhood has a Mobility Plan and a series of projects underway. As history has shown, these changes can make a difference. For instance, before there was a bike lane on Penn Ave, a pedestrian was killed crossing near 14th St, prompting the City to station officers every morning and evening to help people cross. The bike lanes reduced pedestrian crashes, as well as the need to station officers twice a day at the location.
Check out the upcoming plans and proposals to improve the Strip District for those outside of cars.
Penn Ave Road Diet
Up first is a proposal to reduce Penn Ave to one lane inbound between 31st St and 22nd St, otherwise known as a “road diet.”
According to the City’s Department of Mobility and Infrastructure:
Traffic volumes indicate a disconnect between the width of the road and the traffic volumes, leading to increased speeds, unsafe behaviors, and increased bike and pedestrian conflicts. By reducing the travel lanes from two to one, DOMI anticipates being able to reduce crashes by up to 45% while also improving the user experience for more vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists.
Further, between 2018 and 2022 there were 115 crashes on Penn Ave. Of these, 45 resulted in injury and 13 involved pedestrians, making it the second most dangerous section of street in the City for pedestrians.
Simply needing to only cross a single motor vehicle lane instead of two motor vehicle lanes will help reduce pedestrian crashes alone, as demonstrated in other parts of Penn Ave.
Keep an eye out for a public meeting about this proposal in the Spring, and sign-up for our Outspoken newsletter for the latest updates.
Other Upcoming Strip District Projects
There are a number of additional upcoming projects that will affect the major roads in the Strip District. To directly address this tragedy for instance, the City is planning to redesign Liberty Ave. Additionally, on Smallman St, there is a proposal to add bike lanes and improve pedestrian crossings. Finally, the 28th St Bridge that connects Polish Hill to the Strip, will be seeing bike and pedestrian improvements as well.