Making Columbus safer for walking & bicycling
Updated: Jun 26, 2019
In order to improve public health, we want to make it easier for people to choose active modes of transportation. like walking and biking, more often. Walking and biking are better for your health, but navigating the streets alongside vehicle traffic can come with risks.
Walking and riding around the city streets can be dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists. The Dangerous by Design 2019 report by Smart Growth America looked at the data between 2008 and 2017 and found that "drivers struck and killed 49,340 people who were walking on streets all across the United States". In fact, pedestrian deaths are increasing nationally, and have gone up over 35% in the last 10 years. In Indiana, the statewide data shows that we are just below the national average for pedestrian fatalities with 1.1 per 100,000. We know that walking and biking can help improve people's health, but in order for them to want to do so, they have to feel safe.
On our local streets, crash data from 2012 to 2017 may be surprising for some: there were 87 collisions reported between pedestrians and cars, and 93 between cars and bicycles. That's 30 reported collisions between bikes and cars and/or pedestrians and cars per year. Between 2012 and 2017, there were 7 deaths resulting from these collisions and 128 people injured. The Columbus Police Department's Public Relations Officer, Lt. Matt Harris, says that most of the crashes they see involve inattentive and distracted drivers.
There are several things that we can do to decrease pedestrian and cyclist injuries and deaths on our streets. We can design our roads to be safer for pedestrians, cyclists AND cars. We can also educate drivers, pedestrians and cyclists about the rules of the roads and how to be safe. Fortunately, the City of Columbus is taking steps in the right direction to make our streets safer. We've had a Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan in place since 2012 and it's currently in the process of being updated. The City appointed its first Bicycle & Pedestrian Coordinator, Emilie Pinkston in 2018, and our City Engineer Dave Hayward is very supportive of including bicycle and pedestrian accommodations in infrastructure projects wherever possible. Lt. Harris does public talks with both adults and young people to help educate them about the dangers of distracted driving and about safety involving bicycles and crosswalks. The work certainly isn't complete, but we're moving in the right direction. In terms of educating road users, there's still more that can be done. In order to succeed at decreasing pedestrian & cyclist road deaths, many different agencies will have to work together collaboratively.
While public officials and work on the street design and education aspects of this matter, you can educate yourself and your children on how to be safer. For some brief tips on driver, pedestrian and bicycle safety, the Pedestrian & Bicycle Information Center is a useful resource. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) website has information about road safety. There is also a printable Walkability Checklist that can allow you to assess your neighborhood and contains tips for what you can do if you feel that your neighborhood doesn't meet your expectations. Safe Kids has some advice for pedestrians on how not to be hit by a car. There are some great tips for both pedestrians and drivers here.
Here are some general tips to help you stay safe:
- Be alert - Don't walk or drive while distracted, and put down your phone! Look around for cars / pedestrians, especially in residential areas, school zones and downtown.
- Follow the rules - Know the traffic laws and obey them. Drivers: this includes speed limits!
- Crosswalks - Drivers should stop at crosswalks for pedestrians. Pedestrians should use them safely, and otherwise cross at intersections where possible.
- Avoid alcohol / drug consumption before driving or walking.