After several fatal crashes, SLC mayor sets plan for safer streets
SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City and the state today doubled down on pedestrian safety. Following an unprecedented fatal surge in auto-pedestrian crashes, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall set out a plan to make streets safer for people on foot and bikes.
Salt Lake City will be the first municipality in Utah to partner with Zero Fatalities. UDOT will work with community councils and neighborhoods with public education to make streets safer for walking and biking.
“If it feels like deadly auto-pedestrian accidents are on the rise, it’s because they are,” Mendenhall said.
That’s not just a trend in Salt Lake City, but across the state.
In Salt Lake City, already nine pedestrians and cyclist have been hit and killed by motorist this year. That compares with three at this time last year, and only one two years ago. State wide, pedestrian deaths are nearly double what they were this time last year: 28 compared to 15. These crashes are happening at a time of year when pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities are usually at the lowest.
“Everyone deserves to be able to walk or bike through any city or neighborhood, and enjoy the community without fear of being killed or injured by a moving vehicle,” Mendenhall said.
The mayor was joined by city police, the Utah Department of Transportation and the Utah Highway Patrol.
“This is totally and unequivocally unacceptable, what has happened, and completely preventable,” said Maj. Jeff Nigbur with the Utah Highway Patrol. “We have to take responsibility for our actions and reduces extreme driving behaviors.”
The mayor has asked the city council for $2 million for traffic calming as part of the annual budget. Those tools include pedestrian activated crosswalks, speed bumps, raised crosswalks, roundabouts and other enhancements that prioritize pedestrian safety over car traffic.
This state is also committing to spend $2 million on safety enhancements focused on pedestrians and cyclists.
“People are fired up, people are really frustrated. There’s been a lot of speeding, and it feels like it’s getting worse,” said Jon Larsen, Salt Lake City transportation director.
He said speeding in neighborhoods is one of the top complaints his office receives.
“The heart of it is recognizing that when you drive down the street you’re driving through someone’s neighborhood,” he said.
It’s where people live, walk and play. He said, it’s where kids should be able to feel safe biking to school, or walking to a friend’s house.
“For generations, we’ve just turned that space over to people in cars, and I think it’s time to reverse that and recognize that the streets first and foremost are for people,” he said.
His office has already identified 117 places citywide for traffic calming, prioritizing pedestrians and cyclists ahead of motorists.
“If that drops the number of people who are killed on our streets from 10 or 15 a year to zero, don’t you think that’s worth it?” Larsen said.
The mayor is also creating a new Safe Streets Task Force that will identify the most critical areas where intervention might be necessary to help prevent future crashes, injuries and deaths.
“We’re not going to be passive observers in a trend that right now is taking the lives of our residents,” Mendenhall said.
She emphasized that everyone needs to slow down, follow the posted speed limit, stop at crosswalks. Each driver has a responsibility to re-commit to focused driving every time that they get behind the wheel.
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