I recently participated in a phone survey about pedestrian safety in Phoenix. As someone who regularly walks and jogs in my neighborhood, pedestrian safety is an everyday concern. According to the AZ DOT Crash Facts, there were 1,575 car-pedestrian accidents in Arizona in 2012 that resulted in 1,354 injuries and 131 deaths. I prefer not to be the next statistic.
In general, I feel like Phoenix is a fairly safe place to be a pedestrian, however, the survey questions had little to do with factors that contribute to risks to pedestrians. They asked whether the sidewalks were wide enough (yes), whether there’s adequate lighting (most of the time), if the walk signals at intersections are long enough (yes), and whether emergency vehicles respond to accidents swiftly enough (this has nothing to do with things that cause pedestrian accidents).
They survey person didn’t ask about the two main factors that I think contribute to car-pedestrian accidents: stupid pedestrians and stupid drivers.
One of the biggest risks to pedestrian safety I see every day is jaywalking. I’m not talking about people walking their dogs in the neighborhood and crossing in the middle of the block. I’m talking about people crossing 6-lane streets where the speed limit is 40 mph during peak driving times. I live near such a street and I see this all the time, even with a crosswalk located a few hundred feet away and an underpass available.
The worst is when I see a parent jaywalking with their kids. I’ve seen jaywalking parents in the suicide lane pushing a baby stroller with one hand and their other hand is holding the hand of their toddler. It’s one thing to be cavalier about your own safety, but don’t put your kids at risk. It’s because of this that my first question when I hear about a car-pedestrian accident is whether the person was jaywalking.
And another thing, if you walk when it’s dark out, especially in neighborhoods that don’t have that many street lights, please wear something that makes you more visible. When I go jogging before sunrise, I wear a reflective belt and sometimes a headlamp. You can’t expect people not to hit you if you can’t be seen.
The number one threat to my safety as a pedestrian is drivers making right-hand turns at intersections – especially ones that have a traffic signal. A lot of them don’t stop behind the crosswalk and they don’t look for pedestrians trying to cross the street. I’ve been almost hit twice in one trip across an intersection. I had the walk signal and cars at both corners weren’t paying attention to the fact that I was there. I know I’m small but I’m not invisible.
I also worry about walking my dog Rosie in crosswalks. I made the mistake of not staying right by her side once and a car starting turning after I was out of his way but she wasn’t. That scared the crap out of me.
The other set of stupid drivers are the ones who don’t know how to stop at stop signs. A lot of neighborhoods don’t have the white line on the ground next to the stop sign and so when drivers stop at the stop sign, the front of their car is about 4 feet in front of the stop sign, which puts them right in the middle of where pedestrians walk when they cross the street. This is less of an issue when I’m walking but it’s big issue when I’m running. I like it when drivers don’t plow into me during morning exercise. It’s because of these people that I got my reflective belt.
I agree that pedestrian safety is an issue in Phoenix that could be easily improved, but it’s less of a city issue and more of a stupid people problem. One of the things I frequently say when I cross the street is, “Thank you for not hitting me.” It sounds funny, but given the number of close calls I’ve had, it’s true.