On March 2 a woman crossing Nimitz Highway at a marked crosswalk was hit and killed by a motorcyclist. The crash happened a little before 9 p.m. when the man riding the motorcycle attempted to overtake two vehicles that had come to a stop for the woman to cross the street.

The motorcyclist, who was not wearing a helmet, hit a signpost and is listed in critical condition. This pedestrian death is the 10th traffic fatality so far this year.

It’s a tragedy because some of these pedestrian deaths can be prevented with a few common sense measures.

When I see a pedestrian at a crosswalk, I wonder if I should stop because I’m so afraid that the vehicles in the other lanes will not. When I’m in the right lane and I stop for a pedestrian, I roll down my window and stick out my hand signaling for the vehicle in the left lane to stop.

But I can’t do this if I’m in the left lane and I think it would be safer for the pedestrian to wait until there is break in traffic across all lanes to cross. This is unfortunate because during rush hour, there is no break in traffic for a long time and human nature is generally impatient so some pedestrians make a run for it.

The lucky ones make it. The others don’t.

Crosswalk near Piliokahi Street in Waianae close to where Kaulana Werner was killed.
A crosswalk near Piliokahi Avene in Waianae. Government officials should rethink how they design crosswalks in order to improve pedestrian safety. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

A simple solution is to install orange flashing lights at crosswalks that are not at traffic signals. The pedestrians can push a button when they want to cross to activate the lights and vehicles will be able to see these lights from a distance and know to slow down and stop. Some of our military bases here use this system and it’s very effective. Yes, it will cost money to install the flashing lights but it will save lives.

The location of crosswalks is also important. Common sense says to put them under a street light but I have seen many that are not. It’s not rocket science to either move the crosswalk to under the light if feasible or move or add a light at the crosswalk.

Too Many Unprotected Crosswalks

Speaking of light, pedestrians can also take precautions to be seen. They can wear a reflector vest when walking after dark. Once again, this has been adopted on some of our military bases.

Placement of bus stops and street parking spaces should also be taken into consideration. When you have a parked car or bus stopped immediately before a pedestrian crossing, it’s impossible for vehicles in the adjacent lanes to see if someone has started to cross the street.

Also, having a crosswalk too close to a turn is not a good idea as too many vehicles speed around corners.

Wide, flat sidewalks are also important for pedestrian safety.

Do we really need so many unprotected crosswalks? I have seen crosswalks that are very close to each other. Isn’t it better to walk a few more feet and cross the street in a well lit and safe place?

On the Pali Highway in Nuuanu, there are too many unprotected crosswalks. Some should be removed, and the others made safer with flashing amber lights.

On very busy highways, it might be worth the investment to put in overhead pedestrian bridges. Many countries that have light rail have incorporated a network of pedestrian bridges into the design.

Design traffic signals so that pedestrians are able to cross in all directors when all traffic is stopped. That is, no right turn when pedestrians are crossing.

Will this add a few minutes to your commute? Yes, but isn’t it better than getting into an accident with a pedestrian?

On a side note, if you really want that time back and then some, ask the city to install intelligent traffic signals. It’s frustrating to sit at a red light when there is no other traffic in sight.

Wide, flat sidewalks are also important for pedestrian safety. Where there are no sidewalks or where sidewalks are not maintained and unsafe, joggers often run on the side of the road.

As we encourage people to walk and bike more, we also need to realize that this will create increased pedestrian interaction with vehicles.

Therefore, the city and state should put in the time and resources to design safe crosswalks, protected bike lanes and wide, flat sidewalks to encourage healthy living and to keep everyone safe.

As shelter-in-place orders take effect, there will be more people walking and jogging on our sidewalks and streets for daily exercise. There will also be more cyclists on the road. Please be extra vigilant when driving for groceries and other essentials as its easy to speed when there is less traffic and pay less attention to crosswalks. Be safe and be well.

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