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The city of Phoenix makes changes to ensure pedestrian safety

Subcommittee passes improvement plans to increase overall pedestrian safety

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People walk in Downtown Phoenix, Arizona on Monday, Oct. 7, 2019.

The newest pedestrian safety initiative from the city of Phoenix includes a partnership with ASU's Design Studio for Community Solutions within the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions

The partnership with ASU, which would include a research grant of up to $50,000, has yet to be approved by the Phoenix City Council, but the plan passed through the City of Phoenix Transportation, Infrastructure and Innovation subcommittee during a committee meeting on Oct. 2. 

The subcommittee plans to recommend the proposal to Phoenix City Council for final approval.

“We’re tackling pedestrian safety in several different ways and ASU has always been our partner in all these projects,” Councilmember Thelda Williams said. “I’m very hopeful it’s going to help reduce incidents.” 

Julian Paras, a senior studying journalism, got hit by a truck while crossing the street outside the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication the day before his freshman year of college.

"I went to a job fair with a buddy of mine and when we were heading back to our dorms, we were crossing the street with the right of way, and out of nowhere I see this truck coming at me and just like that I felt like I saw life flash before my eyes," Paras said. "I managed to jump away but still got hit pretty good and flew some 10 feet."

Paras said he broke his right fibula but did not need surgery and was able to recover after a four-month period of using a wheelchair, crutches and a cane.

"Ultimately I should have been more aware of where I was," he said. "Being a freshman in college, I was so excited about everything around me that I lost track of my surroundings."

Paras said pedestrians are not able to take any precautionary measures other than looking both ways before crossing the road, leaving drivers to take responsibility for pedestrian safety.

“Perhaps the best way to implement changes are harsher laws against pedestrians who don’t obey the laws themselves, like jaywalking for example," Paras said. "However, it should be the same for drivers. If there are laws that help drivers stay in line, that lowers the risk of a person being badly injured or even worse.”

Phoenix City Council approved $2 million for pedestrian safety in June. The newest spending proposal from the Street Transportation Department and the Office of Pedestrian Safety allocates that money for specific areas of improvement.  

“Obviously the city is growing very rapidly and we want to ensure that the kinds of signals and infrastructure and education that we do as a city is focused on pedestrian safety,” said Heather Murphy, the Communications and Public Engagement representative for the Street Transportation Department.  

The decision to approve the proposal comes after mounting pressure from Phoenix residents. 

According to a report from the Arizona Department of Transportation, last year there were 245 pedestrians killed throughout Arizona’s 15 counties, with 166 of these in Maricopa County.

An investigation published by the Arizona Republic in April also revealed abnormally high rates of pedestrian deaths and a history of inaction from the city of Phoenix. According to the article, the city of Phoenix failed to install crosswalks in locations with high fatality rates within the past five years. 

Weeks after the Arizona Republic published its findings, the Phoenix City Council rejected a proposed pedestrian safety plan. Vision Zero, a national non-profit pedestrian safety project, failed with a 4-4 vote. 

The newest proposal focuses the majority of funding on building crosswalks, medians and streetlights. 

This includes $600,000 for high intensity activated crosswalks (HAWK) and another $660,000 for crosswalk upgrades, including pedestrian warning signs and installation of access ramps. 

The proposal also includes the new partnership between the Street Transportation Department and the Design Studio for Community Solutions. 

The partnership hopes to analyze the different factors that lead to pedestrian deaths and make changes accordingly through a proposed $50,000 research grant. This includes identifying areas where pedestrian deaths are most common. 

The Design Studio for Community Solutions previously worked on pedestrian safety issues in Maryvale where according to director Erik Cole, there are a number of high-risk areas.   

“The city has identified some hotspots where there are repetitive deaths of pedestrians,” Cole said. “We’ve heard from the community that this is a critical issue that needs to be addressed. This is an area where walking is not really a choice, it’s a necessity.”

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Kiera RileyMagazine Managing Editor

Kiera Riley is a managing editor at State Press Magazine. She also interns at the politics desk for the Arizona Republic

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