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Study highlights areas of risk for pedestrians

On Little Rock stretch, 29 crashes seen in 10 years by Scott Carroll | April 4, 2016 at 5:45 a.m.
A map and information showing downtown Little Rock pedestrian crashes.

More pedestrians were involved in vehicle crashes on a half-mile stretch of Broadway in downtown Little Rock than any other street in central Arkansas over a 10-year period ending in 2013, according to a Metroplan study.

There were 29 crashes involving pedestrians during that time along Broadway between West Eighth and West Markham streets, a busy corridor of restaurants, banks, government buildings and an 11-story hotel and conference center. The high-traffic area accounted for 11 crashes involving bicyclists, as well.

The Metroplan study identified high pedestrian-crash intersections in Pulaski, Faulkner, Lonoke and Saline counties. Nearly 40 percent of the high-crash intersections are in downtown Little Rock.

Study director Casey Covington said that's no surprise.

"I think our pedestrian crashes end up being concentrated, obviously, where pedestrian activity occurs. You see this downtown," he said.

Six pedestrian crashes occurred at South University Avenue and West 32nd Street in Little Rock, and five crashes happened at South University Avenue and Asher Avenue. That makes the 0.4-mile stretch on the western border of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock the second-highest in the region in pedestrian crashes, according to the study.

Metroplan, the region's long-range transportation planning agency, conducted the study to evaluate pedestrian and cyclist safety. It's the third such report released by the agency since 2006. Covington said high-crash intersections and roadways identified in the reports are independently studied to identify design issues, funding priorities and safety policies that may need to be addressed.

A study focusing on five high-crash intersections on Broadway in Little Rock was completed two years ago, and some changes, such as signage adjustments and visibility improvements, have already been implemented, Covington said.

"We think it's having a positive benefit for pedestrians, but we really don't have enough data to show what the reduction has been," he said.

Bill Henry, Little Rock Traffic Engineering Division manager, said the city adjusted the timing of crosswalk signals on Broadway so pedestrians have a "head start" over vehicles making right turns.

"We changed the way we time the signals there, and you get a pedestrian advance, where he'll get his walk light before the light turns green. That gets them out where [motorists] can see them," he said.

Other high pedestrian-crash intersections in Little Rock are La Harpe Boulevard and President Clinton Avenue, where seven crashes occurred during the study period; Baseline Road and Geyer Springs Road, where six crashes occurred; and West 12th Street between Washington and Peyton streets, where eight crashes were logged, according to the report.

High pedestrian-crash intersections in North Little Rock include Camp Robinson Road and Allen Street, where five crashes were recorded; McCain and JFK boulevards, the site of five crashes; and West 18th Street and Pike Avenue, where four crashes occurred.

During the 10-year period studied, there were 1,435 pedestrians involved in vehicle crashes in the four-county region, 114 of whom were killed. About 40 percent of the crashes occurred at intersections.

There were 474 bicyclists involved in vehicle crashes. Twelve died. Sixty percent of vehicle-bicycle crashes occurred at intersections.

Crashes involving cyclists have decreased slightly since the last Metroplan analysis in 2012, Covington said.

Maumelle, with its extensive off-road shared bike and pedestrian pathways, had the lowest combined bike and pedestrian crash rate in central Arkansas, the report states. The report notes that the pathways "almost universally separate motorized and non-motorized traffic."

"The bicycle crashes, one thing I will say -- and I think we've seen it before -- is bicycle crashes don't occur on specific bicycle facilities, where there's bike lanes or bike routes," Covington said.

The study, based on crash reports and Arkansas State Police data, found that black men and black youths were significantly more likely to be involved in a pedestrian crash.

"They're really common in minority communities where residents live on one side and those kind of commercial [buildings] are on the other side," Covington said.

Henry, a city traffic engineer for 27 years, said even calculated measures like adjusted signal times can be negated by an impatient motorist.

"I think the biggest thing that needs to happen is the drivers need to be educated to the fact that the pedestrians have the right-of-way," he said. "If you're a pedestrian and you're in the crosswalk, you've got right-of-way and the driver is supposed to yield to you."

Henry said Little Rock recently repainted certain crosswalks downtown to increase pedestrian visibility. He said the bright, white paint also serves as a reminder.

"Don't park in the darn crosswalk," he said.

Metro on 04/04/2016

Print Headline: Study highlights areas of risk for pedestrians


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