Street safety officials warn pedestrians: Be alert

Several pedestrians and bicyclists have been killed in recent days on Sacramento streets. In most cases, the incidents happened during dark evening or morning hours. With winter arriving, street-safety officials are informing the public that we all need to be watchful as we walk or bicycle to work, store or school. Drivers need to be more attentive and drive at safe speeds as night falls earlier. The Sacramento Bee talked last week with Teri Duarte and Terry Preston of WALKSacramento, a nonprofit organization working to create walkable communities throughout the region.

It’s Halloween this week. What’s your advice to trick-or-treaters and their parents?

It’s the common-sense basics. Children should wear costumes that can be seen. Keep in mind that some costume masks limit your peripheral vision, which can be a danger when crossing the street. Trick-or-treaters should walk in groups. Cross at the corner. They or their parents should carry flashlights or other lights so drivers can see them better, and so they can avoid trip hazards.

Anything else?

Parents need to be alert and pay attention to their kids. No texting. And drivers should make an extra point of driving slowly. If the car in front of you or in the next lane stops, look to see why and be ready to stop yourself. That other driver may be letting pedestrians cross the street.

Is there some lesson to be learned from the recent series of pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities?

We’re learning what we already know. Most streets are still designed to move cars quickly and do not adequately accommodate pedestrian and bicyclist safety.

Is that changing, though?

Yes, we are doing a better job of turning streets into “complete streets” that have designated spaces for cars, bikes and pedestrians. That includes more well-marked crosswalks, center medians that cause cars to drive more slowly and give pedestrians a safe place to stop.

Are there new street designs that can help?

Some streets are designed now to separate pedestrians and bicyclists from car traffic. Some jurisdictions are painting striped areas on the street that separate cars by several feet from bikes and pedestrians. Often though, there isn’t enough width on the street to do that. We advocate narrowing traffic lanes, which has been shown to slow cars down. It is an example of making bicyclists and pedestrians as important as cars on our streets.

Is part of the problem the fact that drivers don’t seem to be on the lookout for pedestrians?

Yes. Drivers are distracted. They are texting, even eating and drinking while driving. People don’t take driving seriously. They treat the car like it is a room in their house.

We are seeing more walkers around town, though.

There is a cultural change happening. More people in their 20s and 30s are looking for a more urban lifestyle, where there is life on the street. That means walking and bicycling more as part of everyday life. For some, it is a personal choice to avoid costs of owning a car.

Any key advice to pedestrians now, as evenings get dark?

Yes. Wear light clothes and assume drivers do not see you.