Pedestrian Death on the Upswing... But Why?

In the past few months, a rash of pedestrian deaths has been creeping up the urban backside of Columbus and causing severe itching for those promoting multimodal transportation.

2011 was not a good year for the pedestrian in Franklin County, with the highest number of pedestrian fatalities in recent history (23). And 2012 has already seen three such fatalities in various parts of the city.

The question, then, is why? What is causing this spike in the number of pedestrian deaths of late?  While location does not appear to be an issue, time of day certainly does.  Of the 13 deaths from 2011 examined thus far, 10 of them have been at night with the victim not using a crosswalk and dressed in dark clothing.  So though it's a horrible tragedy, logic dictates that more people are taking unnecessary risks  just to walk across the street.  And the police are taking the predictable route of advising people to wear brighter clothing at night.

But if I was to advise the city in researching these accidents and looking for commonalities, here's what I'd like to suggest:  instead of looking at locations in the city, look at the following things for each accident:

  1. the speed limit at the locations of the fatalities; 
  2. how close a crosswalk was to each location; 
  3. how close to the location was the nearest bus stop. 
I've long said (though possibly not here) that the city is doing its citizens an injustice by not having a crosswalk at the location of every bus stop.  For example, one of the bus routes I take regularly is on Indianola Avenue going south to downtown.  On the days that I have to get off on Indianola instead of on Hudson (days I don't have to pick up my son), it's always an issue to try to get across Indianola without walking entirely out of my way to do so.  To get to a crosswalk is at least a quarter mile either north to Indianola and Weber Road or south to Indianola and Arcadia. And Indianola isn't even as much an issue as roads like Morse, Henderson, Bethel, Dublin-Granville, etc. (due to speed and road width). 

I'm in good shape, so it's not generally a problem for me to hustle across Indianola.  What about someone who's not possessing full mobility and needs to get across - the handicapped or elderly, example?  It's a bad situation and not just in my location - many people complain about this very problem all over the city.  

And with more people taking COTA for transportation each day for economic or other reasons and the rate continuing to rise, the problem is only getting worse, I think.  

How about you?  What are your thoughts about why the rate of pedestrian fatalities is rising?  

People, not speed.


  1. Maybe more people are walking?

    I'm with you on the crosswalks at bus stop thing, but it seems to me that a crosswalk may be insufficient on its own in many locations. A crosswalk doesn't really help anyone cross the street, just tells them where to do it. It needs to be paired with other traffic control devices if there are not enough gaps in traffic.

    1. Agreed! And so many motorists don't even know they're supposed to stop at crosswalks when they exist that they're creating a hazard, too.

  2. How about a crosswalk PLUS a "yield to pedestrians" sign?

    1. Yes, that's certainly a big part of the answer. I know for a fact that most drivers don't know that they legally have to stop at a crosswalk if there's a pedestrian trying to use it.

      There's a part of me that really hates the need to HAVE to do this. I keep coming back to the need we have to have police who will actually enforce traffic laws, not just the ones that fight hold-ups in traffic flow. The focus should not be on getting people moving as fast as possible, but rather on making sure everyone gets where they're going safely. The mindset is completely wrong.

      And with the city looking at expanding out their bike and walking options and trying to bring more transit into town, that mindset shift needs to happen sooner than later.


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