Harris County has a continual problem with pedestrian deaths and this year so far, 83 pedestrians have lost their lives in motor vehicle accidents, making it the highest death count of any Texas county. If such a rate of deaths continues, the county will come in just under its 2020 pedestrian death total of 149.
But what is the reason behind so many pedestrian deaths in Harris County? Talking about it, Houston’s chief transportation planner, David Fields, says it’s because Houston roadways weren’t built primarily to protect pedestrians. He said the roads in Houston were built to move people fast, and safety was not the number one priority for that reason.
Since 2011, the county has seen 1,230 vehicle-involved pedestrian fatalities, nearly 20% of the total such deaths that happened in the entire state.
Although there are many pedestrian deaths in Harris County, not all roads are deadly. According to data, 60 percent of the traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries happen on six percent of its roads. These roads are the Tomball Parkway in State Highway 249 and the roads surrounding West Oaks mall.
Also, most roads where the accidents happen are in the low-income and minority communities. Fields pointed out, “This tells us we have not invested equitably in safe transportation across the city. And the results are showing higher rates of crashes, injuries, and deaths in [low-income] neighborhoods.”
“What we want to do is make our streets safer, and that does mean slowing down traffic,” he said.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner vowed to complete his Vision Zero plan. The plan hopes to reduce traffic and pedestrian deaths to zero by the year 2030. Aside from Houston, Austin and San Antonio are also part of the Vision Zero project. Forty more cities are hoping to reduce fatalities and severe injuries related to the road.
The project includes working on street safety, designing the streets to support safer speed of vehicle, and constructing sidewalks as well as bike lanes.