A new report on traffic safety around the world confirms the safety value of building more sidewalks, safer crosswalks, expanded trails and traffic-slowing designs.
The World Resources Institute, in its “Safer Cities by Design” report, said traffic deaths would be reduced by paying more attention to the multimodal nature of transportation in urban areas.
Spokane and other Inland Northwest cities have joined the increasing number of communities embracing what are sometimes called “complete streets.”
“Many of the world’s cities can become safer, healthier places by changing the design of their streets and communities,” according to the report issued by the Washington, D.C.-based organization.
“Where public streets have been designed to serve primarily or even exclusively private motor vehicle traffic, they can be made immensely safer for all users if they are designed to effectively serve pedestrians, public transport users, bicyclists and other public activity.”
The report said 1.24 million people die in traffic every year around the world, with more than 90 percent of global traffic deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries.
Traffic accidents are the eighth-leading cause of all deaths worldwide and could climb to the fifth-leading cause by 2030 if current trends continue, the report said.
As populations grow and economies improve, the report said cities will become more crowded and urban expansion will be inevitable.
By responding to growth with more roads and motorized transportation, cities will see the problem worsen.
“Cities can design streets and the built environment to be safer, not only in new communities, but also by transforming existing neighborhoods and streets,” the report said.
The report recommends the following:
• Deal with population growth through the use of more compact development and infill, which shortens trips and reduces exposure to traffic risks.
• Traffic should be slowed through the use of structures that cause drivers to ease off the accelerator pedal, including traffic circles, pedestrian islands and curb extensions.
• Pedestrian-scaled retail development is associated with fewer fatal crashes. The report calls for separating higher-speed routes from throughways used by pedestrians and cyclists.
• Develop transportation systems that work for walkers, transit riders and bicyclists.
In Spokane, the city has been converting four-lane arterials to three-lane routes with two through lanes and a center turn lane.
The City Council has adopted a crosswalk ordinance requiring marked crossings near schools, parks, hospitals, churches, trails and other spots under a pedestrian master plan. That master plan is currently under development. Neighborhood councils are being consulted on crosswalk design.
The ordinance is already bringing results with new crosswalks being installed like the one near the West Central Community Center, said Councilwoman Candace Mumm, who spearheaded the crosswalk ordinance.
“Neighborhoods have been communicating this to us for years,” she said of the need for a new approach to transportation. “The city has an obligation to make streets as safe as we can.”
She said the governor’s office and state transportation officials have asked her to help spread the word around the state about Spokane’s model crosswalk ordinance.
Other Spokane city efforts involve building more sidewalks, handicap ramps, safer routes to bus stops and additional trails.
Spokane Valley recently opened its new Appleway Trail route east of University Road.
Post Falls in its 2010 update of its comprehensive plan says “neighborhoods and centers should be compact, pedestrian-oriented and mixed-use,” an approach adopted by other communities in the region.
To view the report, go to wri.org.
In Spokane, work is scheduled to start today to reconstruct Indiana Avenue from Division to Dakota streets.
The $2 million project involves converting that segment of Indiana from a four-lane arterial to a two-lane arterial with bike lanes.
Mission Avenue will undergo repaving from Division to Washington streets starting Tuesday. Detours will be in place on Indiana and Boone avenues.
Freya Street from Hartson to 29th avenues remains closed to through traffic during construction of stormwater utility improvements near Eighth Avenue.
Evening and overnight work starts Sunday on Division Street from Francis Avenue to Farwell Road to repair pavement ruts. Work hours are from 7 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. through Aug. 5. Lane reductions will be in place.
On the highways
On state highways, paving continues on Mt. Spokane Park Drive northeast of Bruce Road. Expect single-lane traffic with flaggers and pilot cars.
Crews will be fixing wheel ruts today and Tuesday on U.S. Highway 2 from Deer to Westwood roads from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. Delays are likely.
Work continues on pavement repair on U.S. Highway 195 from Interstate 90 to Excelsior Road.
Paving continues on Trent Avenue from Sullivan Road to the Idaho state line. Lane restrictions are likely.
Near Snoqualmie Pass, traffic will be blocked for one hour at 8 p.m. today through Thursday for rock blasting as part of the multiyear widening of I-90 through the Cascades.
Around the county
In Spokane County, Rutter Parkway from Waikiki to Indian Trail roads will be closed to daytime through traffic starting today through Aug. 13 for road repair. Work hours will be from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Flaggers will help local residents and emergency vehicles get to their destinations.
Stoneman Road from Market Street to Bruce Road will be closed on Thursday from 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. for road repair.
Sidewalk work is underway on Wellesley Avenue from Harvard to Arden roads.
Repaving work is planned for Rutter Parkway from state Highway 291 to Indian Trail Road; Geiger Boulevard from Electric Avenue to Hayford Road; and Dover Road from Charles to Four Mound roads.
Crack seal work is taking place on Cheney-Plaza Road near Rock Lake Road; North Kentuck Trails Road near Valley Chapel Road; and Wheeler Road near Latah.
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