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“Bright Clothing” Isn’t the Answer to Pedestrian Deaths

10:12 AM PST on November 18, 2015

So far this year, nine people have been killed while walking in Columbus, Ohio. Predictably, pedestrians have been caught up in the police response, as the cops increased enforcement of jaywalking. It got even worse with comments from Sergeant Brooke Wilson made to the local NPR station.

North 4th Street in Columbus runs right through Ohio State University's campus area. Image: Google Maps via Transit Columbus
North 4th Street in Columbus runs right through Ohio State University. Image: Google Maps via Transit Columbus
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“It’s not just enough to be legally correct in your actions as a pedestrian," Wilson told WOSU. "You need to give yourself every advantage which includes wearing bright, reflective clothing."

Joshua Lapp at Transit Columbus responded:

If you read these as misguided or as anti-pedestrian you aren’t the only one. As an advocate for walkability and better transportation, reading this, I’m reminded that now is the time to shift the Columbus conversation. It’s easy to catch the light rail or high-speed rail fever, but walkability is just as urgent, if not more, in Columbus.

Sidewalks aren’t sexy, yet 50-60% of Columbus remains without them. Crosswalks aren’t in the news, but all too often they’re ignored by drivers and unmarked for pedestrians. Jaywalkers are coming under enhanced enforcement, but how often are they just responding to unsafe, auto-centric road designs?

You may not ride a bus, you may hate getting on a bike, but one thing you can’t escape is the pedestrian experience. We all deserve a safe way to cross the street, a smooth sidewalk for our feet, or a safe ramp for our wheel chair. Light rail may be long term, but we can build a sidewalk in a week; we can paint a crosswalk in a day.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Move Arkansas shows what a much wider Interstate 30 would do to Little Rock. Bike Portland reports the city is using 135 "ghostly" cut-out silhouettes as an educational tool to dramatize the problem of traffic violence. And Transportation for America explains how metropolitan planning organizations can save money with complete streets.

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