The Ongoing Tragedy of Unwalkable Streets in Ogden

In the aftermath of a fatal auto-pedestrian accident in Ogden last week, Fox 13’s Ben Winslow followed the story as people became “outraged” over the lack of walkability in the area.

Ben’s story from Tuesday also identifies one of the primary problems:

“The lighting isn’t necessarily the best,” [Ogden police Lt. Chad] Ledford said of Wall Avenue. “You couple that with the five lanes of traffic and the speeds and there was a collision.”

Thobe is the second man to die while crossing Wall Avenue in two months. Peterson said Thobe’s best friend, David Saures, was killed on Christmas Eve while crossing Wall Ave.near Binford Street, about 300 feet away. The person who hit Saures and left him to die in the street has never been found, police said.

Apparently UDOT is studying the need for some sort pedestrian safety device in the area. However, as my original post pointed out, this is a classic stroad and the underlying design is the biggest problem. I’d love to see more safety devices in all of these places, but ultimately they’re going to need some radical fixes to really bring about much improvement. It’s sort of like trying to make a bomb safe; in the end, the best way to render it inert is to dismantle it.

And in case you forgot, here’s what this area looks like:

Screen shot 2013-02-25 at 9.40.18 PMA follow up story further explains the problem:

“I’ve been here for a little over five years and we’ve had a dozen people hit and killed in this area,” said Jennifer Canter, the director of St. Anne’s Center, a homeless shelter where both men were headed when they died. “It’s a staggering statistic, and it’s not just at night — during the daytime, too.”

The problem area is a stretch of Wall Avenue between 25th and 29th Streets. There are unmarked intersections, where police say drivers should stop for pedestrians. But because there are no crosswalks, the people who cross the road to head to the shelters say hardly anyone stops for them.

People do jaywalk, and the street lighting at night is terrible. The danger is increased as the homeless make their way from the downtown area to the shelters to find a bed at night.

It’s rare that the media gets a chance to report on these issues because they’re fairly wonkish and hard to cover without turning to advocacy. So it’s exciting to see Ben’s ongoing and excellent coverage.

A few points emerge from that coverage:

• The people being hit in this area are walking out of necessity, not choice. That’s key; with better design there would be more voluntary pedestrians, which would increase safety for everyone. As it is, it’s tragic that the people with the fewest options are also being killed.

• Even a casual bystander can pick out the major problems here: too many lanes, fast speed limits, insufficient lighting, etc. How is it, then, that some traffic engineer was not able to see these problems? Or, perhaps the better question is why traffic engineers refuse to account for people in their designs.

• Accidents along stroad are shouldn’t be surprising and won’t end on their own.

I could go on, but the point is really very simple: bad design leads to carnage.

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