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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, February 15, 2010

Pedestrian plan advances safety goals

The weather here makes it easy for people to get around on foot, but almost everything else conspires against it.

Patchy networks of sidewalks and unlit crosswalks fail to inspire confidence that walking along any roadside is safe. Sadly, the state's dismal record of fatalities confirms that fear.

Last year's enactment of the Complete Streets set of standards led to better planning for new developments, to include more bikeways and walkways.

But safety in established communities lags far behind. The fact that a Kailua woman took it upon herself to place pedestrian safety flags by dangerous crosswalks on the Pali Highway shows how little residents trust that government has a handle on the problem. That's why the Department of Transportation's launch of a pedestrian master plan is an important, though belated, step toward creating a more walkable state.

Correcting safety shortcomings on state roads will be the focus of this plan. Identifying places where improvements are most needed can help push projects that retrofit roadways for safety more quickly. But coordination with counties also should be a goal. For example, the year's first pedestrian fatality occurred on the Pali Highway, a state road, but there are city fixes that could begin sooner.

For example, the city should review its bus stops here and in other hazardous areas where pedestrians often cross the highway unsafely to catch a bus. Officials should relocate stops that are too distant from lighted, signalled intersections.

The Honolulu Police Department has begun cracking down on enforcement at crosswalks around O'ahu, citing inattentive drivers who failed to observe state law. Attention also should be turned to careless pedestrians, who own part of the problem, too.

The state has invited people who want to shape the pedestrian plan to sign up for an advisory committee by March 1. See http://tinyurl.com/pedestrianplan for details.

Hawai'i's population has doubled since statehood, but provisions for people to walk safely through urban hazards haven't kept pace. It should be a pleasure to walk here, not a risk, and this is our chance to push for needed changes.