Friday, November 15, 2013

Pedestrian and cyclist fatalities again in spotlight

This month, pedestrian and bicycle fatalities are again in the spotlight, both nationally and locally.  Below are highlights from news at both the local and national level.  At the local level, we've included the News-Press story on pedestrian fatalities, along with Dan Moser's comments to reporter.  Second, we've included the updated graphs that tell the story of trends in pedestrian and bicycle fatalities in Lee County (2000 to 2013 to-date) [Note--these are already out of date, as each day seems to see more pedestrian 20 as of 11/24/13.] At the national level, we've included several pieces: the NHSTA 2012 Traffic Fatalities Report; a heart-wrenching video from NYC about their recent pedestrian fatalities; a Sunday New York Time's commentary about the lack of consequences for killing cyclists, and a response article; an important piece suggesting that the "Broken Windows" strategy could cut down on traffic deaths, too; and an excellent new guide for designing safer streets, based on NYC's analysis of its crash data and actions taken to address the problems.

Note:  blog post updated on 11/23/13 with additional articles.

1.  News-Press Nov. 15, 2013 story on pedestrian fatalities and Dan Moser's comments
1 (a): Dan Moser Comments
 Sent: Friday, November 15, 2013 6:43 AM
Subject: Pedestrian Fatalities Story

Hi Marisa, 
I'm disappointed that you didn't challenge the comments of law enforcement that the carnage on our roads is due to pedestrians not using crosswalks.  That logic is totally faulty and only feeds into the mentality we as drivers have - that we can drive with impunity and ignore the vulnerable road users if they dare make any misjudgments.  Not only that, but in many cases where collisions occur near unsignalized intersections, the pedestrian victim may have been in an unmarked crosswalk.  That appears to be the case in the Winkler Road double-fatality.  But LE [law enforcement] nor drivers acknowledge the existence of unmarked crosswalks (see below*).

Please... discuss how the News-Press could be part of the solution to this ongoing problem rather than adding fuel to the fire.  


*Crosswalk Definition: (a) That part of a roadway at an intersection included within the connections of the lateral lines of the sidewalks* on opposite sides of the highway, measured from the curbs or, in the absence of curbs, from the traversable roadway” or “(b) Any portion of a roadway at an intersection or elsewhere distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossing by lines or other markings on the surface”.  (FSS 316.003(6)(*My note: an actual sidewalk need not be present; the sidewalk refers to any space within the right-of-way between the roadway travel lane(s) and private property.)

1 (b):  News-Press, November 15, 2013
Recent pedestrians mishaps blamed on not using crosswalks 
Written by Marisa Kendall

Nine people are dead or seriously injured following a string of pedestrian and bicycle crashes over the past month — and law enforcement says in most of those cases, the injured parties are to blame.

In the recent cases and beyond, the pedestrian is usually at fault for not using a crosswalk, Fort Myers police Lt. Jay Rodriguez said. In the city, Palm Beach Boulevard and Cleveland Avenue (U.S. 41) are especially deadly areas.

“If you see it on 41, it’s like Frogger out there,” Rodriguez said referring to the video game. “They don’t use crosswalks. They cross in the middle of the roadway.”

Two pedestrians were killed within 12 hours Wednesday. Around 9 a.m., Patrick Joseph Coady, 58, of Cape Coral, entered the path of an oncoming semi as he was putting air in his tire on the side of Pine Island Road in North Fort Myers.

Around 7:40 p.m., Teresa Aaron, 75, of Estero, walked in front of a station wagon while trying to cross Estero Parkway near Cypress View Drive. She was not in a crosswalk, according to Lee County deputies, and the driver couldn’t see her. A family member told Lee County deputies Aaron suffered from dementia, according to the crash report.

Rodriguez said the recent string of crashes indicates the start of season in Southwest Florida.
“More cars, more crashes,” Rodriguez said.

Fort Myers has seen nine fatal crashes from January through October, according to spokeswoman Shelly Flynn. Three of the victims were pedestrians.

In Lee County, there have been 68 fatal crashes so far this year, compared with 51 at this point last year, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. A breakout of pedestrian crashes was not available. In Collier County, there have been 31 fatal crashes so far this year, and 31 at this point last year.

There have been 15 fatal crashes in Cape Coral in 2013, compared to 10 all of last year, according to Sgt. Dana Coston.

“We’ve had a particularly bad year for crashes in Cape Coral,” he said.

Of the eight pedestrian or bicycle crashes that left nine victims dead or injured this past month, the driver has been blamed in one.

Frank Pizzurro, 41, of Fort Myers, was arrested Oct. 31 on a felony charge for leaving the scene of a crash involving death. Police said he fled after hitting pedestrian Juan Aranda, 61, on Cleveland Avenue.

Jay Anderson, executive director of Stay Alive ... Just Drive! said drivers can do more to avoid hitting pedestrians and bicyclists.

Rodriguez agreed that drivers often pay more attention to their GPS or cellphone than the road.

Two weeks ago he had to stop a seasonal resident going the wrong way down a one-way street at McGregor Boulevard and Cleveland Avenue near downtown Fort Myers.

“The guy was adamant,” Rodriguez said. “My GPS said I could go that way.”

A month of crashes
There have been at least eight serious crashes (with nine victims) involving pedestrians or bicyclists in Lee County over the past month. In most cases the pedestrian or cyclist was to blame for entering the path of oncoming traffic. 

• Wednesday, around 7:40 p.m. — Pedestrian Teresa Aaron, 75, of Estero, was killed crossing Estero Parkway near Cypress View Drive. Aaron was not in a crosswalk, and the driver of the station wagon that hit her couldn’t see her, according to Lee County deputies.
• Wednesday, just before 9 a.m. — Patrick Joseph Coady, 58, of Cape Coral, was struck and killed by a semi. Coady was putting air in the tire of his van on the side of Pine Island Road near Barrett Road in North Fort Myers. The Florida Highway Patrol said the semi driver was not at fault.
• Nov. 5 — Domingo Cuevas-Hernandez, 35, was struck and killed as he got off a LeeTran bus and tried to cross U.S. 41 north of Sanibel Boulevard in San Carlos Park. The Florida Highway Patrol said the driver was not at fault.
• Oct. 26 — Bicyclist Edward Bergen, 56, was hit by a vehicle as he tried to cross the intersection at Southeast 47th Street and Southeast Sixth Avenue in Cape Coral. He was taken to the hospital in serious condition. Bergen was not wearing a helmet.
• Oct. 22 — Theresa and Paul McGinn, 81 and 87, respectively, were killed trying to cross Winkler Road in Fort Myers in front of the Bermuda Club condominium. The driver who hit them was not cited.
• Oct. 21 — A 13-year-old riding a bicycle was critically injured after he crashed into a trailer being hauled by a pickup in the 2700 block of Southwest 20th Avenue in Cape Coral. The teen veered onto the street from a vacant field, according to Cape Coral police.
• Oct. 20 — Pedestrian Juan Aranda, 61, was killed in a hit-and-run crash on the 5100 block of Cleveland Avenue in Fort Myers. Police later arrested 41-year-old Frank Pizzurro for leaving the scene of a crash involving death.
• Oct. 16 — Cape Coral High School junior Anastasiya Fairall was seriously injured as she tried to cross Santa Barbara Boulevard from the high school. Investigators said darkness and morning fog likely played a factor in the crash. She was not crossing at a crosswalk.
Source: The News-Press archives

1(c):  NBC-2 News Video report on November 22nd, focusing on increased fatalities on roadways.

1(d):   WINK News story and video on increased pedestrian fatalities, Nov. 22nd. See video WINK interview story about pedestrian killed on Palm Beach Blvd. Wed. This is 2nd pedestrian killed this month while exiting LeeTran bus and trying to get to other side of street...using the closest crosswalk is a 6 minute walk.

Trends in Lee County Pedestrian and Bicycle Fatalities: 2000-2013 (as of 11/13/13)
by Lee MPO Staff

1.  NHTSA Report on 2012 Traffic Fatalities
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released official 2012 traffic fatality and injury report on November 14, 2013, which shows that there was a 3.3% increase in traffic fatalities in 2012 compared to 2011. As reported in Streetsblog, "Pedestrian and bicyclist deaths rose faster than the overall rate — 6.4 and 6.5 percent, respectively. Last year, 4,743 people were killed while walking and 726 while biking. This is a long-term trend: Walking and biking are becoming more dangerous relative to driving. Occupants of passenger vehicles make up 65 percent of fatalities now, down from 75 percent in 2003, while “non-occupants” (i.e. pedestrians and cyclists) make up 17 percent, up from 13 percent. Motorcyclists now account for 15 percent of casualties, up from 9 percent."
 Click here to read the full Streetsblog story on the new NHTSA report: It’s Official: 33,561 People Killed in Traffic on American Streets Last Year

2.  The Atlantic Cities, Nov. 14, 2013

In light of the recent rash of pedestrian fatalities in Lee County [we're at a record 18 pedestrian fatalities so far this year--highest since 2007] and serious injuries of both pedestrians and cyclists , this story and video hits a raw nerve.  Take 4 minutes to watch this video and help spread the message eloquently stated by the grieving father of the 3-year child that was killed by a driver who failed to yield to her & her grandma in the crosswalk in NYC.  Darla
Our message to all drivers is simple. Please, before you get behind the wheel, realize that the machine you are about to operate can kill people. We may drive every day, but we need to be conscious of the enormous responsibility we have when we get behind the wheel. We urge drivers to pay attention to the road and to slow down. Yield to pedestrians. They have the right of way, and it's the right thing to do. Your vehicles weigh one ton of steel. The average human body weighs a fraction of the vehicle and is made up of fragile flesh and bones.

New Yorkers are always in a hurry. But we challenge drivers to pause and ask, is it worth it? Is it worth running over a child because you are running late? Is it worth picking up the phone when it could mean a family must pick out a grave for their child? Is it worth texting a friend when that message could force a father to text a date and time of their child’s funeral?

Click here to watch the video.
Click here to read the full Atlantic Cities article.

3.   New York Times, November 9, 2013

The lack of  consequences for drivers killing pedestrians and cyclists is a national problem, which was well articulated in Sunday's NYT commentary.  Darla  
Below are excerpts from the commentary:

 ".But studies performed in Arizona, Minnesota and Hawaii suggest that drivers are at fault in more than half of cycling fatalities. And there is something undeniably screwy about a justice system that makes it de facto legal to kill people, even when it is clearly your fault, as long you’re driving a car and the victim is on a bike and you’re not obviously drunk and don’t flee the scene. When two cars crash, everybody agrees that one of the two drivers may well be to blame; cops consider it their job to gather evidence toward that determination. But when a car hits a bike, it’s like there’s a collective cultural impulse to say, “Oh, well, accidents happen.” If your 13-year-old daughter bikes to school tomorrow inside a freshly painted bike lane, and a driver runs a stop sign and kills her and then says to the cop, “Gee, I so totally did not mean to do that,” that will most likely be good enough."

"So here’s my proposal: Every time you get on a bike, from this moment forward, obey the letter of the law in every traffic exchange everywhere to help drivers (and police officers) view cyclists as predictable users of the road who deserve respect. And every time you get behind the wheel, remember that even the slightest inattention can maim or kill a human being enjoying a legitimate form of transportation. That alone will make the streets a little safer, although for now I’m sticking to the basement and maybe the occasional country road."

Click here to read the full article.

4. The Grist article by Heather Smith (11/15/13) responding to the NYT commentary is also worth reading:  Break the cycle: Why stronger laws will save bikers and curb reckless drivers

The Atlantic Cities, Nov. 20th.
"That's the argument from two "broken windows" experts, who spoke at last night's "Closing the Enforcement Gap to Save Lives on NYC Streets." Both argued that there's no reason the city can't reduce traffic deaths using essentially the same approach it took to cutting homicides.
"There needs to be an increased focus on this issue," said Bill Bratton, former police chief of New York, Los Angeles, and Boston. "More can be done, and I anticipate more will be done."
"The dichotomy between regular street crime and traffic crime is a false dichotomy."

Also see this great follow-up article on the "Broken Windows" strategy article in Streetsblog on 11/25:
Fight Street Crime With Speed Bumps and Crosswalks

6.  NYC DOT Shares its Five Principles for Designing Safer Streets, Streetsblog, Nov. 21st.
Photos: NYC DOT

Earlier this month, NYC DOT put out a major new report, Making Safer Streets [PDF], that collects before-and-after data from dozens of street redesigns and distills five key principles to reduce traffic injuries. The guiding idea in the report is that greater simplicity, order, and predictability will make streets safer.  The report can assist the Lee MPO in implementing its bike/ped safety action plan.

Click here to read the full article.  

1 comment:

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