AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin has hired a pedestrian coordinator to help make the city a safe, walkable city.
The position was created a year and a half ago and is part of the Austin Transportation Department.
Part of Joel Meyer’s goal as pedestrian coordinator is to study crash data on every crash involving a pedestrian and vehicle. It’s a significant problem according to Meyer who helped put together Austin’s Pedestrian Safety Action Plan released in January.
It found that “between 2010 and 2015 there were nearly 1,900 pedestrian crashes in Austin, resulting in 121 fatalities. In addition to these tragic deaths, the serious, often life-altering injuries suffered by people who are involved in these crashes often go unreported in the news headlines. In fact, for every pedestrian fatality in Austin there are another 10 serious injuries.”
Meyer says there has been a big increase in pedestrian deaths nationwide over the past two years. Austin police tell KXAN in 2016 there were 28 pedestrian fatalities. In 2017 there were 23. But Meyer says 2015 was the worst on record for Austin with 30 pedestrian deaths. “We are paying attention to the long-term trends and not only looking at the fatalities but the number of serious injuries and crashes overall to make sure we are always making progress on those fronts,” he says.
Part of making progress is looking over the data. Meyer says he and city transportation leaders have studied crash data among other information to determine which parts of Austin need pedestrian safety improvements.
Meyer says a $2.2 million grant from the TxDOT will pay for the following: “We will be installing 25 audible pedestrian signals which is what you are hearing now. It gives pedestrians an audible indication of when to cross the street. We are installing five new pedestrian hybrid beacons which are the lights you see here to give people a chance to cross the street. And we are installing over 500 countdown signals which show how long you have to cross the street, so that is a grant from the state that we think can really go citywide to improve pedestrian safety.”
When asked if it will help save lives or make Austin more pedestrian friendly, Meyer says, “We have good data nationally on how all these devices can impact pedestrian safety, so for the countdown timers we’ve seen up to a 25 percent crash reduction at certain intersections — really those are the types of things we want to do citywide.”
Construction on the projects is set to launch this spring.