As of March 30, the city of Tucson has instituted a review process to consider the status of the city’s 62 boards, commissions and committees. Among those committees being reviewed is the pedestrian advisory committee.
The pedestrian advisory committee was created four years ago to address the issue of pedestrian injuries and deaths in Tucson. At the time, Tucson was considered for inclusion on a federal watch list because of the high numbers. Despite the committee’s best efforts, however, the numbers have not drastically improved. It is true that in few cases can real change be implemented in such a short amount of time. Still, at least in part because of this, the committee and its standing are under review.
We believe the goals of the committee are practical and, when fully implemented, will make a major contribution toward making Tucson’s streets safer for pedestrians in the near future.
The Pedestrian Safety Problem Won’t Solve Itself
As we’ve mentioned in a previous blog, Tucson is still in dire need of action. Statistics indicate that pedestrian accidents are on the rise in Tucson. The Arizona Department of Transportation (DOT) reports that in 2015, there were 1,399 pedestrian crashes, 160 fatal crashes, 161 pedestrians killed, 1,169 injury crashes and 1,236 pedestrians injured. The numbers for fatalities were up slightly; in 2013 there were 156 fatal crashes and 157 fatalities.
High rates of pedestrian accidents in Arizona are nothing new. A report from 2014 shows both Tucson and Phoenix rank in the 25 most dangerous metropolitan areas for pedestrian accidents, with Tucson at 18th and Phoenix at 24th from 2008 to 2013. In that period, Tucson averaged 9.7 pedestrian deaths per 100,000 people.
A Challenge: The Dark Sky Ordinance
One specific challenge to the committee, and to pedestrian safety in general, is the county’s new addition to its dark sky ordinance. The ordinance has been put into effect to help the local astronomy industry. For homeowners, it states that no more than five night lights may be lit in a home and no more than five lights overall. The aim is to dim man-made light in order to create more visibility in the skies. While it will do this, it also decreases visibility in the streets, meaning it will be harder for drivers to see pedestrians at night, thus increasing the risk of pedestrian accidents.
Taking Action to Protect Pedestrians in Tucson
Tucson has unique challenges that impact walkability and safety. Having an active committee looking at ways to improve pedestrian safety is of value to everyone.
Because of this, we strongly support the committee and hope the review panel will allow them to complete the job they’ve started.