City streets in central Arkansas can sometimes be a dangerous place to be a pedestrian. Local leaders hope to reduce the number of accidents between vehicles and people crossing busy streets by promoting Pedestrian Safety Awareness month.
At a press conference Monday near Little Rock's most dangerous intersection to cross, Mayor Mark Stodola said, “More pedestrians were involved in vehicle crashes on a half-mile stretch of Broadway here in downtown Little Rock than any other street in central Arkansas, which is of course why we are here today.”
According to a report completed by Metroplan, an organization dedicated to regional transportation issues, the intersection of Broadway and Capitol is the most dangerous for pedestrians. Over the nine years studied, an average of 144 pedestrians and 47 cyclists were involved in crashes with vehicles each year. 126 of those crashes were fatal.
Jim McKenzie, the Executive Director of Metroplan, says, in addition to statistics, the report includes specific suggestions for improving safety.
“We just funded an engineering project for North Little Rock to install pedestrian safe havens, or a planted median down the continuous center turn lane, along Pike Avenue, which should give pedestrians a safe haven halfway across the street and should visually narrow the street down for the driver so that it will encourage them to go slower,” said McKenzie.
Making similar changes to Broadway is more challenging because it’s classified as a state highway. Improvements, such as freshly painted crosswalk lines, involve multiple stakeholders, said Thomas Knight, the chair of Downtown Little Rock Partnership’s Safety Committee.
“We want to create a table, set a table, to invite the city, and the state, and Metroplan, and the Downtown Partnership to figure out who does what at this point. If it’s a volunteer effort to come out and paint and we need somebody to raise funds for paint well so be it," Knight said. "But I think we’re at a point where now these intersections are so crucial that it’s time to address and implement some of these things that we’ve talked about.”
Signs have been added reminding drivers to yield to pedestrians and the timing of crosswalk lights have been changed because both were relatively low cost, but additional safety renovations are being suggested.
An active push for increased safety features came after the death of Entergy Arkansas employee David Wright at a downtown intersection in 2011. The company's Brad Jestice said the traffic on downtown streets remains an ongoing concern.
“Everybody, not just Entergy employees, but people in the Simmons building, people in the Regions [building] here in this downtown area, many people have close calls with almost being hit. And I had a coworker that was hit three years ago right here at 6th and Broadway during work, going to lunch,” said Jestice.
Official say it’s vital for pedestrians and drivers to be aware of one another on city streets.
Metroplans’s Pedestrian/Bicycle Crash Analysis report can be found here.