Dallas Complete Streets: WordPress

Dallas Complete Streets: WordPress

Yes, according to a Transportation Nation story published a few years ago, “there is a stark correlation between being poor and being hit by a car as you’re walking down [or across] the street.”

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The 2012 story is dated, as news stories go, but the reporting is solid and relevant in 2015. I came upon the piece while wondering why so many pedestrians are hit and badly injured or killed on the streets of our neighborhood.

In the span of the past three weeks, two walkers have been struck and killed crossing Skillman, one at Walnut Hill and one near Royal, and a child was killed crossing the street with her mother in the Vickery Meadow neighborhood, on Fair Oaks near Pineland.

Last week a man was hit near Texas Instruments. TI Blvd near I-635.

The Vickery Meadow area was the site almost exactly a year ago of 7-year-old Melany Valdez’s death, while she was crossing a street.

These are just a few recent incidents involving fatalities; many involving injuries but not death go unreported by the media, even us.

In some of these cases the drivers stopped to render aid. In others, David Benton’s at Skillman-Walnut Hill, for example, the driver attempted to flee. A few years ago, Dallas police officer Lt. Scott Bratcher told us that Dallas police clear about 25 percent of hit and run cases, and “even more cases that involve injury or fatality.”

In every aforementioned case, the pedestrians reportedly were not crossing at crosswalks.

I’ve also written two separate heartbreaking stories over the years about two Lake Highlands High School students killed while crossing Lake Highlands streets — Andrew Green on Skillman in 2011, whose killer fled the scene and still has not been found, and Riley Rawlins on Audelia and Royal, whose unlicensed, uninsured assailant served jail time and is now on probation (for graphic awareness of what a pedestrian-high-speed-car-death does to everyone involved, read this one).

Texas has the second highest rate of pedestrian deaths in the country, according to the data released last year.

Dallas is one of about two dozen cities across the country pinpointed by the federal government as a pedestrian safety focus city.

A grad student from Rutgers is credited with sorting through the data and linking pedestrian crashes in his region, New Jersey, to “communities where the population was either highly African American or highly Latino” … and from that he went on to learn of the strong socioeconomic correlation.

“So he dug a little deeper. And found what he calls “a statistically significant relationship” between low income neighborhoods and high pedestrian crash totals.”

“That correlation shows up everywhere. “The higher the income level, the lower the likelihood for crashes to occur in an area,” Kravetz says. “And that was found in almost any study that analyzed that relationship.”

Researchers are trying to hone in on why this is. One obvious reason: car ownership is out of reach for many low income people – so they’re walking more, literally increasing their exposure to cars. But poorer neighborhoods often lack even the most basic pedestrian infrastructure.

So, lets bring it back home. We know most of the aforementioned victims lived in apartments — both children killed in Vickery Meadow lived the neighborhood’s affordable apartment communities. Andrew Green lived with mom, sister, dad and grandmother in a small two-bedroom apartment on Whitehurst. Riley Rawlins’ family lives in an apartment off Ferndale. Skillman, where the two men were killed recently, is lined on one side with apartment complexes. It is safe to say most of these victims were from lower-income households.

Could their deaths have been avoided with better infrastructure in their neighborhoods? It is hard to say. Riley Rawlins was crossing beyond the crosswalk. He still might have been killed, but had he been crossing at a crosswalk, it would have been easier to convict his killer with a crime. Skillman features high traffic and few opportunities for safe street crossing, so people frequently walk across the road (full disclosure: I’ve done it myself, many times, when jogging from my house to the LA Fitness at Skillman-Walnut Hill), their own judgment the only guide.

I have personally witnessed people exercise terrible judgment here — men or women (but usually men) step into the right lane, casually walk within inches of my fast-traveling vehicle (“What if I wanted to change lanes?! You would be smooshed!” I often think, incredulously.)

Would crosswalks help or present a false sense of security? The new crosswalk at the Lake Highlands trail, which traverses Audelia, makes me nervous, because I fear that joggers will think they are safe and drivers will not slow down.

Heck, a few years ago a crossing guard was hit and nearly killed near Lake Highlands Elementary — in a crosswalk while wearing her crossing guard gear.

In district 10, north of I-635, sidewalk projects are underway to improve walkability. A very visible crosswalk was installed near Forest Lane Academy. I walked through Vickery Meadow last weekend to get to the Shops at Park Lane and the crosswalks are in good working order at every intersection, and there is one every few feet. I know many people, kids, students, parents walk the Vickery Meadow neighborhood everyday without incident, so it is a mystery, at this point, how a tragedy like the one earlier this week happened.

Common sense says it is a fatal combination of careless behavior on the part of both walkers and drivers — a need for heightened awareness, especially when teaching children the rules for crossing the road — in addition to issues with the infrastructure that must be addressed at a municipal level, through both small projects and larger initiatives like Complete Streets.

For what it’s worth, nationwide, pedestrians over age 65 are more likely to be hit and killed. Males are far more likely to be hit and killed than females. 8 p.m.-midnight is the most likely time of day for such an accident to occur. More times than not, alcohol is not a factor — all from the U.S. Department of Transportation (Data is from 2012, reported in 2014).