23 Pedestrians Killed in Last 12 Months--Is Ticketing Jaywalkers the Answer?

NOB HILL--Sometimes I think the city of Albuquerque hates pedestrians.  Oh I know…pedestrians jaywalk all the time and some pedestrians just seem to dare a motorist to hit them.

Well, that's true.  But what has the city done except threaten pedestrians with arrest? In the last year 23 pedestrians were killed.  Yet there has been nothing said to drivers about being careful of both pedestrians and cyclists.  Do we need some clarity as to who has the right-of-way?  Do we need some clarity as to what constitutes a crosswalk?


As far as I understand it, pedestrians at least, do have the right-of-way.  The Pofahl Law Firm here in Albuquerque states on their website, "It is common for a vehicle driver to take the right-of-way, expecting the pedestrians to step back or dodge, but pedestrians always have the right-of-way especially in a crosswalk or parking lot."

Where are the Zebras?
One thing the city has done is to get rid the "zebra" crosswalks that were aimed at helping people cross safely.  The one on Girard SE disappeared a couple of years ago.  And there no longer is a striped crosswalk in front of Expo New Mexico which was heavily used by people visiting the flea market on weekends.  The white paint was scraped off the street and everything painted black.  It was if to say, "Good luck!  We abandon you to the speeding gods of idiocy!"

Speed Tables
Actually they would probably say that painted crosswalks are more dangerous than nothing at all.  And this is true, partially.  Wikipedia cites a study:  "Research undertaken in New Zealand showed that a zebra crossing without other safety features on average increases pedestrian crashes by 28% compared to a location without crossings. However, if combined with (placed on top of) a speed table, zebra crossings were found to reduce pedestrian crashes by 80%."  A "speed table" is an elongated speed hump that is large enough to accommodate the vehicles wheelbase on the top of the hump.  One example would be to elevate the crosswalk itself on a speed table.

Frankly, there is no excuse for not protecting people crossing the street in front of the Expo NM.  That street is loaded with families pushing strollers and pulling toddlers across the street while dodging cars and standing in the middle of the street awaiting a break in the traffic.  If pedestrians have the right-of-way, nobody told the drivers.

The Nightmare
San Mateo and Central Ave. is the really big problem.  It has to be the most dangerous intersection for pedestrians in Albuquerque.  What a nightmare for both pedestrians and vehicles!  The problem is the buses--both Rapid-Ride and regular buses stop at the corners and people are always hurrying to get from one bus to the other.  Not only that, the Rapid-Ride stations are not even close to the corner so the most direct route from station to station is right across the lanes of traffic.

Last month APD cracked down on jaywalkers at this intersection, giving out 100 jaywalking citations in February.  But how about addressing the root of the problem:  all those buses and people running between them?  Let’s try something new, rather than giving out tickets to people who are dodging traffic jogging from the south-bound San Mateo bus to the west-bound Central Rapid-Ride.

Here are some ideas.

  • How about having the buses stop twice, once on each side of the intersection.  In other words the south-bound San Mateo bus would first stop on the north side of Central, sort of a "transfer stop" and then stop at its regular place on the south side of Central.  That would mean nobody on the south-bound bus would need to cross a street at all to head west.  If heading east, could be picked up right at the corner.


I know this would cause some problems for cars turning right, but remember, we lost 23 of our people in the last 12 months.  And if  this idea doesn't appeal to you, suggest something else.  I'm open to anything.  The question really seems to be, "Do all those really smart traffic engineers have a solution to the problems inherent  in having four heavily used buses arriving at the same corner at the same time?  Here are some more thoughts.

  • A fence on the median like the one at Lomas and Girard NE.

  • Longer crossing lights.  Or even an All-Walk signal.

  • Flashing lights during rush periods.

  • Coordinate wait periods for the buses at that corner with pedestrian All-Walk signals.

The Nob
Nob Hill is a different matter.  One problem is that cars edge through the marked crosswalks on side streets to get a better view of the road and a faster entry into Central Ave.  The problem with that is it forces pedestrians to either walk way out of the crosswalk in the front near the cross traffic, or to go behind the car and risk not being seen by a turning vehicle.  My own rule is to never cross behind a car.  Somebody from the traffic dept. should walk around Nob Hill and see what keeps cars from being able to see oncoming traffic clearly.  I know that the city's own bus stop on Tulane and Central creates a big blind spot for cars coming out of Tulane SE.  And mostly it is the big advertising poster that obstructs the view.

Central Ave., Again
Another problem is trying to cross Central Ave. at a corner is hardly safe.  Supposedly all corners are considered unmarked crosswalks.  But that doesn't make them safer than crossing in the middle of the block.  For one thing, there is no pedestrian refuge on the median at corners.  The median at that point is less than two feet wide and an adult can feel the breeze from traffic as it whizzes by.  Forget about it with children, strollers, or walkers.


No…probably safer to cross in the middle of the block.  There are no cars turning in front of you or in back of you.  There is a safe spot to stand on the median half way across the street.  Many times there is a tree or something to hang on to.  And best of all, there is one less lane of traffic.  Just make sure the coast is clear.

Speeders
Maybe if there was a campaign to slow cars down and prevent cyclists and cars from being hit I would feel better about obeying rules that would seem to endanger me.  But I can't remember the current or past Mayor of Albuquerque get on television and say that pedestrians do have the right of way, no matter what.  And that the procedure is if a person is waiting at a corner to cross the street, stop your car and let them.  Or that speed limits in high-use pedestrian areas like Nob Hill, or San Mateo & Central, or in front of Expo New Mexico should be reduced to no more than 30 mph.

Instead, all we get is the police handing out $10 jaywalking tickets to people who can least afford them.  That is not a solution to 23 deaths per year.

Views: 523

Comment by misterhinkydink on March 19, 2013 at 10:16am

Jaywalkers are targeted because they make up a large number of the pedestrian deaths. And ticket the drivers who pull into the crosswalk without stopping before and/or that block a pedestrian's right of way.

Comment by once banned twice shy on March 19, 2013 at 11:18am

The number one problem is that the traffic engineering department is only concerned with moving cars quickly and efficiently along city streets.  They view cyclists and pedestrians as impediments to that goal.  At least the ones with any kind of planning authority do.  I sat in a neighborhood meeting where a traffic engineer bluntly stated that it was not in his department's interest to put in any kind of facility to make sure pedestrians could cross a street safely because this might slow down cars.  Nice. 

Number two problem is APD's lack of resources focused on traffic enforcement.  They have a pitiably low number of units assigned to traffic enforcement daily.  Plus, the cops themselves don't give a crap about traffic safety or speeding. 

Nope, if you are walking or on a bike, you are very much on your own in this city.

Comment by Phil_0 on March 19, 2013 at 11:39am

I have heard the story OBTS tells from many, many people and I think it is safe to say that Albuquerque has a BIG problem with its traffic engineering department as far as safe walkable streets are concerned. The planning departments have in recent years devoted a lot of time and energy towards enhancing walkability but it all comes to naught because of the aggressively car-only attitudes that dominate traffic engineering. It's crazy - we should be *adding* crosswalks, not taking them away, and we should be installing lights and signals to protect them.

So there needs to be a global change of attitude in traffic engineering. However, I think jaywalking enforcement is a big part of the solution too. Many ABQ pedestrians - especially at San Mateo and Central - act in an incredibly reckless, irresponsible manner and hitting people in their wallets seems like one of the few ways to start getting the point across about crossing at the light.

Comment by DCMc on March 19, 2013 at 11:40am

Pedestrians darting quickly into oncoming traffic trying to cross the street is a huge problem in Albuquerque. I have it happen to me several times a week. I keep a close watch for them so I have never even come close to hitting one. Sadly, with the so many drivers in town speeding and talking or texting while driving I'm not surprised that we have a high pedestrian death rate. I don't think giving the pedestrians tickets is the answer. I think both drivers and pedestrians need to be reminded to watch carefully for each other with TV and newspaper ads and sighs posted along sidewalks. Lowering speed limits in some localities might also be of some help.

Comment by Benny the Icepick on March 19, 2013 at 2:53pm

While I have heard multiple sources confirm what Phil and OBTS say about the city's traffic engineers, I hope we can take heart in that this seems to be a generational disposition, and more and more engineers coming out of school are taught how to factor multimodal traffic into their designs and alignments.  MRCOG hosts monthly webinars run by the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals that are attended by people from numerous groups, including the city.

By the way, Johnny, one of those recent webinars was "Driving Deaths Down: Proven Countermeasures That Work."  Very helpful nuts-and-bolts recommendations on how street design can minimize pedestrian fatalities.  Among those resources was the Federal Highway Administration's toolbox of Proven Safety Countermeasures.  I think some of these solutions could and should be implemented on many of Albuquerque's roadways.

Comment by Edith Grove on March 19, 2013 at 3:33pm

For starters, I would love to see the speed limit in Nob Hill and similar places be just 25 mph. 35 is way too high for a zone with such heavy pedestrian traffic.I've had situations where I've crossed at a corner across Central in Nob Hill and had drivers that actually speed up, threatening to hit me, even if they're far away when I start to cross. It's a horrible display of aggression.

Wherever there is a major street with a crosswalk, that walk should have a pedestrian-triggered stoplight. There have been too many dangerous situations where a pedestrian is trying to cross and cars are speeding by. If a car were to stop--as the law says it should--it would run a high risk of getting rear-ended.

Comment by Dave on March 19, 2013 at 3:54pm

Our transportation infrastructure is often very unfriendly to pedestrians.  One of the most annoying examples is that unless you are fortunate enough to hit a walk signal button shortly before a traffic signal turns green, you wait much longer than a counterpart car heading in the same direction waits at the same crossing.  If you are heading north, the traffic signal already had turned green and you hadn’t hit the button, you would have a red no walk signal and not be able to legally proceed until the traffic signal cycles through to the next north/south green signal.  Unless you waited (often with no north/south traffic in the road), you are a jaywalker.  However if the traffic signal had already turned green and a car wasn’t in that intersection, it still gets to legally proceed when it arrives.  It doesn’t have to wait until the traffic signal cycles green again.  I would argue for consistency between expectations for cars and for pedestrians:  the pedestrian signal should automatically turn white when the traffic signal turns green, and remain white until the traffic signal turns yellow.  If a car is turning, the pedestrian should have the right of way until the traffic signal turns yellow.  This is the same as the rule motorists already have in dealing with oncoming cars.  It would discourage jaywalking to allow pedestrians to legally cross when the traffic signal is green.

For the San Mateo/Central and a few other very busy intersections, ABQ should add diagonal crosswalks.  This would mean at every red light cycle, there would be an all directions stop for vehicles, with pedestrians having a 30 second right of way to walk n/s or e/w, as now, but also cross ne/sw and nw/se. 

Comment by once banned twice shy on March 19, 2013 at 4:35pm

Sorry Benny:  the very traffic engineer I heard say that his only interest was moving cars was a young fellow (40s).  Plus, I've learned some other things since that have made me lose heart even more.  The city administration can SAY all manner of things about making Albq. bike and ped friendly and MRCOG can support webinars until they are blue in the face, but unless the culture changes in the very departments who can make a difference, we will still have a "bike-ped friendly" city on paper only.

Comment by shotsie on March 19, 2013 at 4:40pm

In this city, there are a number of t-bone shaped intersections that allow a driver to turn left from the neighborhood street onto the major street with a crosswalk and a stoplight.  You'd think that the traffic dept would delay the light from turning green if a pedestrian had pressed the walk signal, but, nope, the car and the pedestrian get to fight it out in the crosswalk - guess who wins.  Most of the time, I walk down the block a bit, then jaywalk - it's a lot safer.  

I also view medians as safety islands - not as means to jaywalk. 

Comment by Izquierdo on March 20, 2013 at 9:02am

It would be interesting to know the percentage of jaywalkers who are at fault v. the percentage of vehicle drivers. An aside: How many people are killed by the police with guns v. the number of pedestrians killed? I know that's mixing apples and oranges, but it would still be interesting.

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