Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Vision Zero for Little Rock aka Don't Blame the Victim, Let's Examine the Street

Two pedestrians were hit on West Markham January 11. The statewide paper had a quick blurb about it. One of our local television stations took a different angle & focused on the 'problem' of jaywalking.

As this editorial points out, you should be able to cross the street without fearing for your life.

Markham is a busy street. It's an arterial street connecting lots of different parts of the city - Hillcrest to downtown, Quapaw to Midtown, etc. It's a main connector to the Zoo, War Memorial Stadium, the accompanying golf course and fitness center. There's also a relatively new multi-story dorm home to numerous medical students often from places outside of Little Rock.
Time to Adopt Vision Zero Little Rock

Neighbors in the adjacent Hillcrest & Capitol View/Stiftt Station want to be able to safely cross West Markham to enjoy the nearby amenities. There's a deep irony in crossing an unsafe street to get to the walking paths that surround War Memorial Park. That says nothing of the safety concerns for bike lane that exists for a short period when Van Buren becomes Fair Park.

Markham is home to numerous retail establishments but the high-speed traffic & setback of the strip malls make it far from an appealing place to linger. It may score decently on the WalkScore index but it fails the loveability index. Streets designed like West Markham disconnect neighborhoods and thus a city in ways similar to how freeways divide neighbors. There are some simple things we can do to fix this problem.

* Adopt a Vision Zero Initiative . The Vision Zero Initiative is traffic safety initiative that aims to achieve a transportation system with zero fatalities or injuries due to road accidents. In New York City it's reduced pedestrian fatalities by 34%. Adopting a Vision Zero policy shows that the city places value on pedestrians and is doing something in effort to protect them. The nation's most obese state should do everything in its power to promote activities that promote an active lifestyle. Vision Zero is proactive.

I'm not advocating Jaywalking but rather than blame the victim we should consider what led to their decision to cross the street where there wasn't a crosswalk. The car culture here is to speed through a yellow light & occasionally rush a red. Vision Zero helps to move the culture of teaching zero tolerance for such unsafe practices. Policy changes aren't a utopia solution, but they are a start.

* Install more frequent & creative crosswalks along West Markham
Better This?

or this?

* Redesign the street with pedestrians in mind. This proposal will take time & cost some money but it's an investment in people and the neighborhoods. My suggestion is to start with just a small area - the block(s) nearest the Oyster Bar, Pizza D, etc. and then the blocks nearest War Memorial.

We can do better than this
Better Option 

Finally, slow down the speed limits. Start with the areas shown first. These are the ones closest to commercial centers. There's also a couple of blocks in Capitol View/Stifft Station that are adjacent to Hillcrest which would benefit from this type of improved connectivity. If we can't create an environment where neighbors can easily interact with neighbors, we're not serving our citizens as they deserve. If you have to get in your car to cross the street so your kids can play with the neighbor kids, then we need to do better. And we can.

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