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Are zero pedestrian deaths possible?

 

The city of Ann Arbor has adopted a pedestrian safety plan that has a goal of zero pedestrian deaths by the year 2025. The goal was prompted by the constant increase in pedestrian deaths the city has experienced in the last four years. The average during that period was 58 deaths, or more than one per week throughout the year.

The city's plan is part of the Vision Zero Initiative, which is a worldwide initiative to eliminate pedestrian deaths. While the goal is ambitious, it can be achieved by thoughtful changes to infrastructure that previously were little considered during the planning and building process.

 

For most of the last 100 years, the goal of city design has been to facilitate the easy movement of the motor car.

Anyone who has stopped and really examined some suburban intersections, often 10 lanes wide, with dual left turn lanes, sometimes dual right turn lanes and unrealistically short "walk" periods on the crosswalk, and considered the risk a pedestrian experiences when attempting to cross such a no-man's-land, will recognize the challenge.

All of this was done intentionally. Pedestrians simply did not matter. With just as strong intentions, streets and intersections can be engineered to be safer for pedestrians. One important element to build into these systems is a recognition of human fallibility.

Understanding the types of mistakes and errors that drivers and pedestrians may make can be used to help prevent them and reduce their impact when they occur. Building the system to "fail safe" as opposed to "fail deadly" is one such change.

It is likely that almost all of the 58 pedestrian deaths that have occurred in past years were avoidable. We just have to try harder to avoid them.

Source: mlive.com, "Ann Arbor adopts pedestrian safety report, sets goal of zero fatalities by 2025," Ryan Stanton, October 8, 2015

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