Add safety features to crowded streets
Honolulu, with its year-round temperate weather, can be a pleasant place to travel on foot, especially if you don’t have that far to go.
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Honolulu, with its year-round temperate weather, can be a pleasant place to travel on foot, especially if you don’t have that far to go. The city is relatively compact and served by a well-established bus system, so the pedestrian option can be quite practical.
It also can be deadly, judging by the recent count of pedestrian fatalities on Oahu. Compared with last year, 2018 has got off to an abysmal start, with 14 pedestrian deaths, just shy of the 15 total for the whole of 2017. The numbers are alarming, and demand action.
The state Department of Transportation (DOT) has responded by launching a public messaging campaign aimed at reversing this trend.
The campaign is beginning with broadcasts of fatality statistics and safety messages on electronic traffic signs, as well as via DOT’s website and on social media.
Concurrently, the Honolulu Police Department is continuing its practice of conducting roadblocks on holidays to curb drunken driving.
Separately, former state Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland, now program coordinator with the Lanakila Multi-Purpose Senior Center, is working on a sign-waving demonstration May 2 involving seniors — who often are victims in these incidents — at points around Oahu. Parks also may be focal points for that campaign, she said, with children and other parks program participants playing a role.
These fairly generic public-awareness responses are all well and good; without a doubt, distracted drivers and inattentive pedestrians need a kind of jolt to awaken to their surroundings and avoid trouble. They should be reminded that the city is growing more and more crowded, and street-level safety features haven’t kept up.
But stronger measures will be required, even as the incidents are given proper study and concrete improvements to roadways are implemented.
Policymakers need to recognize the broad swath of circumstances that lead to these accidents, and make a full-court press against the various problems.
In large part, this means the city and the state must continue to pursue Complete Streets policies, in which streets and highways are reconfigured to better accommodate a mix of vehicular, pedestrian and bike traffic. The gradual expansion of the city’s cycle track and bike-lane networks is part of this effort.
So are the controversial bulb-out structures at Chinatown intersections. People complain about lost parking spaces, but they forget that bringing pedestrians out from the tangle of parked cars, so they can be seen, is the whole point.
Some of the danger zones, Chun Oakland said, are in the dense Liliha, Dillingham, King and Nuuanu-Kuakini areas, teeming with pedestrian activity.
Just to select one of these: In May 2015, the city Department of Transportation Services issued a Complete Streets implementation study on the Nuuanu Avenue corridor between Kuakini Street and Craigside Place.
Among the recommendations was the creation of a “Barnes Dance” intersection and signal phase at Kuakini and Nuuanu, active before and after school hours, to enable pedestrian crossings in all directions.
Such intersections have been established in crowded, pedestrian-
dense Waikiki and contem-
plated elsewhere. The effect is longer stoppages for automotive traffic during the combined pedestrian crossing times.
People have complained — loudly — about slowing traffic through Honolulu thoroughfares, but slowing cars through town is exactly the objective, and a necessary one.
According to estimates based on U.S. Census Community Survey data, Honolulu has a relatively high percentage of households without vehicles — 17.2 percent in 2016. As other major cities have done, Honolulu needs to come to grips with its pedestrian future — now, before many more tragedies unfold.