Pedestrian deaths in San Antonio increased 40 percent in 2016
City hopes new funding for projects, education will cut down on numbers
SAN ANTONIO –
A devastating trend is on the rise in San Antonio. Sixty-five pedestrians were hit and killed by cars last year. That's a 40 percent increase from 2015, when 46 people were killed, according to the city's Transportation and Capital Improvements department.
This spike is hitting as the city's new Vision Zero program finishes initial projects to lower pedestrian deaths. The big question is: What more needs to be done?
All day, people make risky darts across Guadalupe Street near Zarzamora on the West Side of town. On Wednesday, people were seen running across the same block where a 75-year-old man was hit by a car and killed Monday night.
New year, same problem.
However, to people who live near these so-called "pedestrian problem spots," it makes sense why some people take the risk.
"There's always been a problem with the sidewalk in this area. After a certain section, it's gone and you're forced to walk into the street," pedestrian Michael Buentello said.
"There's not enough crosswalks," pedestrian Jackie Constancio said, noting the space between each one.
A lack of crosswalks is a complaint Art Reinhardt hears from people all over the city. He's the assistant director of the city's TCI department and leads the Vision Zero Initiative, which started a year and a half ago.
"The goal is achieving zero fatalities," Reinhardt said.
Numbers are clearly heading in the wrong direction.
"It's actually a national trend. No one knows the exact reason but some reports show that with lower unemployment, lower gas prices, better economy, you have a lot more people on the streets," he said.
Reinhardt believes with more funding and more projects, this year could be better for San Antonio. His team has already installed several "Z" crossings, which allow pedestrians to cross mid-street. They give drivers heavy warning with signs and lights.
"There's one on Broadway near the DoSeum, There's a couple that we built on Culebra and on Commerce," Reinhardt said.
With millions of dollars expected from the 2017 bond, every district in the city has been allocated money for pedestrian mobility projects.
"(In) some districts it's upwards of $10 million. One of our goals this year is to physically build eight to 10 projects on our streets to help make it safer through the Vision Zero funding we did receive this year," Reinhardt said.
Those projects could involve "Z" crossings, speed signs or new lighting.
"There's hardly any lights out here," Constancio said.
Lighting is a key priority. Reinhardt said about 75 percent of pedestrian deaths happen at night.
However, responsibility lies with the pedestrians too. A KSAT crew, standing for just 30 minutes at Zarzamora and Guadalupe, saw seven people jaywalk across both busy streets, less than 50 feet away from a crosswalk.
"It goes both ways. It's not just the city's problem. A lot of individuals are at fault too," Buentello said.
Reinhardt said a big factor is also driver error, mentioning how critically important it is for people to put down phones, stop distractions in the car and pay attention.
"Cars are going fast," pedestrian Jesse Garza said.
Garza said cars near the Guadalupe and Zarzamora intersection regularly go about 40 mph, even though the speed limit is 30 mph.
While it's up to drivers to slow their vehicles down, Reinhardt said there are multiple ways to use signs and markings to deal with speed issues.
"The whole community has to come together," Garza said.
To learn more about Vision Zero, or to make a suggestion to the team, head to the program's website here.
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