Road Warrior: 2021 was most dangerous year to be a pedestrian in NM - Albuquerque Journal

Road Warrior: 2021 was most dangerous year to be a pedestrian in NM

HOW’S VISION ZERO WORKING? Martha Hardman recalls in an email “Mayor (Tim) Keller’s fanfare in announcing the launch of a ‘Vision Zero’ plan for Albuquerque (in May 2019). This is meant to create road and traffic conditions which lead to zero vulnerable road user deaths and is an obvious joke at this point. Perhaps someone – you? – should ask him about that, in light of the two pedestrian deaths within one week of each other caused by motorists breaking laws?”

I did, and an answer follows. First, a look at how pedestrian deaths are on the rise and a caveat that some of the fatalities involved pedestrian error – such as when someone pushing a shopping cart across an interstate on-ramp at 1 a.m. was hit and killed Nov. 12.

88 DEATHS AND COUNTING:

What was a declining number of pedestrian fatalities has been increasing at an alarming rate. University of New Mexico and state Department of Transportation data from 1995 to date shows a high of 88 pedestrian deaths in 1995 and a low of 34 in 2010.

Twenty-six years after that high, and almost three years into Albuquerque’s Vision Zero pledge, New Mexico hit 88 pedestrian deaths at the end of November. Albuquerque has recorded at least two since then, the tragic death of a 7-year-old hit and killed Dec. 12 while crossing Central with his family after visiting the River of Lights at the botanic garden, and a pedestrian hit and killed at Menaul and Cagua NE Dec. 27. Both were hit-and-runs.

While we await the final December numbers, we can say 2021 was officially the most dangerous year to be a pedestrian in New Mexico in at least a quarter of a century. (It wasn’t good for other modes of transportation, either. Overall road fatalities from January through November were 431 this year, up from 383 in 2019. Of that 431, 132 happened in Bernalillo County. No other county hit triple digits, and San Juan came in a distant second with 33 road deaths.) There is a bright spot: Alcohol was a factor in fewer road deaths January-November – from 156 in 2019 to 140 in 2020 to 101 this year. But more of the folks killed have not been wearing their seat belts: 122 didn’t buckle in 2019, 136 in 2020 and 173 this year.

CITY RESPONDS: Ava Montoya, spokeswoman for Keller, says “making our streets safer for all users is a top priority of the city, as is finding the offender responsible for the senseless, tragic killing of 7-year-old Pronoy Bhattacharya. The mayor has spoken privately with the family and instructed APD to crack down on off-highway vehicles that are on our streets illegally. The Vision Zero Action Plan lays out researched recommendations for fundamental changes to the way our transportation systems are designed to save lives on the road. There is no quick fix; the plan is far-reaching because the challenge is multifaceted.”

Details are posted at https://www.cabq.gov/vision-zero. Montoya shares there’s been over $300,000 in restriping to slow traffic and enhance bike lanes; $1.2 million in ADA compliance upgrades; and $7 million in lighting, sidewalks, ADA compliance, curb and gutter repair and construction in Southeast Albuquerque. “Over 75 school crosswalks have been improved and upgraded in one year, and an additional 37 will be completed in a matter of months.”

In addition, “$4 million was dedicated in a bond to go into Vision Zero projects.” Montoya adds that while “Mobile Speed Enforcement and complete streets will make an impact, we also must continue to grow our police force so that we can have more officers available to crack down on illegal behavior that has led to far too many tragedies.”

ABQ RIDE KICKS OFF 2022 WITH ZERO FARES: As of Jan. 1, ABQ RIDE, ART and Sun Van no longer charge passengers. The goal is to get more folks riding the bus and better serve members of the community.

For those tentative to get on a city bus, Lorena Sanchez of the Transit Department says “the safety and security of our passengers and drivers have always been a priority for ABQ RIDE.” With free rides likely increasing ridership, she says the city is working on educational materials on rules for riding the bus, training staff on de-escalation and policy and collaborating with the Department of Municipal Development that provides security. “Security incidents will be part of our data collection process to help determine if the program will continue beyond 2022.”

Johnny Chandler of DMD adds “the transit department has 47 positions allocated for transit security duties at this time,” with five of those vacant. “Transit has also secured funding for 10 additional security officers for fiscal 2022. The security division has an approximate 29% vacancy rate, and security is always hiring.” Jobs are posted at https://www.governmentjobs.com/careers/cabq/jobs/2968085/security-officer-j12?pagetype=jobOpportunitiesJobs.

Editorial page editor D’Val Westphal tackles commuter issues for the metro area on Mondays. Reach her at 823-3858; dwestphal@abqjournal.com; or 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109.


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