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How Do Poorly Designed Sidewalks Contribute to Pedestrian Accidents?

Published on Jun 10, 2022 at 10:38 am in Pedestrian Accident.
How Do Poorly Designed Sidewalks Contribute to Pedestrian Accidents?

Getting around Lexington, KY without a motor vehicle can be a challenge. With a walkability score of 34 and public transit score of only 27, Lexington sits firmly in the “car-dependent” category.

Not everyone in our beautiful city owns or even wants to own a motor vehicle, though. Many people rely on a combination of walking and public transportation to get to work or run errands. Being a pedestrian in a car-dominated city is far from easy, and people on foot face dangers that those sitting behind the wheel might never realize.

Poorly designed sidewalks contribute to pedestrian accidents, as paths may end too soon or put walkers dangerously close to traffic. At the Law Office of Todd W. Burris, we believe everyone deserves to travel safely and with dignity, whether by foot, on public transportation, or in a personal motor vehicle.

Why Do People Walk?

Although driving may be the standard here in Lexington, there are many reasons people walk instead of drive, including:

  • Inability to secure an auto loan
  • High gas prices
  • Disabilities that prevent them from driving
  • Concerns about the environment
  • A desire to be healthier

While some people are pedestrians out of necessity and others actively choose to walk, every individual should be able to travel safely to their destination without concern of serious bodily harm or even death. Pedestrian accidents are sadly something that we are all too familiar with at the Law Office of Todd W. Burris.

How Do Sidewalks Help?

Creating a safe sidewalk that protects pedestrians from motor vehicle traffic requires care, thought, and effort. An ideal sidewalk setup might include:

  • A buffer zone between traffic and the sidewalk
  • Continuous paths from one sidewalk to another
  • Space for snow to be shoveled off

The buffer zone is especially important as it creates physical distance between pedestrians and traffic. One way that city planners can utilize the space between sidewalks and the closest lane of traffic is by planting strips of grass and trees. Trees provide an added physical barrier between cars and pedestrians, too.

Setting aside several feet of greenery between the sidewalk and the road might look nice but is not always practical. Fortunately, the buffer zone can also provide an effective barrier when it is occupied by:

  • Bicycle lanes
  • Parked cars
  • Streetlights
  • Benches
  • Trash cans
  • Public art displays

Sidewalk width is also important. Since walking can be a highly social activity, experts recommend that sidewalks be constructed with widths between five and six feet. Anything less than that can make it difficult for two people to walk comfortably next to each other and may inadvertently push some pedestrians off the paved sidewalk and closer to traffic.

What Does a Poorly Designed Sidewalk Look Like?

A poorly designed sidewalk will have little to no buffer zone and may be only four feet or less in width. There may be long breaks between two sidewalks where the pavement does not connect, forcing pedestrians to travel over uneven, bumpy, or rocky ground to reach the next part of the sidewalk. Wheelchair-bound pedestrians or those with disabilities that limit movement often cannot navigate these types of terrains and must instead travel in the road.

Curb cuts—the sloped area on a sidewalk that indicates where to cross—should align with the curb cuts on the opposite side of the street. Anyone who is in a wheelchair or visually impaired relies on these indicators to help them safely cross the road on the shortest, safest path possible. Ideally, curb cuts should also have truncated domes. These raised bumps serve as a tactile warning to visually impaired pedestrians.

The worst-case scenario is no sidewalk at all. In areas that lack sidewalks but still have pedestrians, you may notice worn paths in the grass that show where pedestrians naturally gravitate to and walk. When designing sidewalks, city planners can use these worn paths as guides for creating sidewalks that naturally align with current pedestrian activity.

The Link Between Poorly Designed Sidewalks and Pedestrian Accidents

Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety administration—NHTSA—shows that pedestrians make up 17% of accident fatality victims. In the United States, a pedestrian dies every 84 minutes. In 2019 alone, more than 76,000 pedestrians suffered injuries in collisions with cars and other motor vehicles.

Pedestrians are at a stark disadvantage in accidents, as they are no match for the size and speed of a motor vehicle. Conversely, vehicle occupants tend to fare much better in pedestrian accidents.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s Office of Highway Safety—KOHS—advises pedestrians to use sidewalks whenever possible to minimize the risk of being involved in a pedestrian accident. While, on the surface, this advice might seem well enough, it overlooks that even when sidewalks are available, they are often insufficient.

In a study titled “Investigating the correlation between sidewalks and pedestrian safety,” researchers found that the risk of being involved in a pedestrian crash on stretches of roadway without sidewalks is three times greater per mile than on roadways with sidewalks. Researchers also determined that the risk for pedestrian accidents is higher when there are gaps where two sidewalks do not connect.

This study concluded that a lack of sidewalks is one of the biggest predictors of pedestrian accidents along a given roadway.

The link is clear—poorly designed sidewalks or a complete lack of walkable pavement is a significant factor in pedestrian accidents. Other factors that can increase the risk of a pedestrian accident include:

  • Inadequate lighting
  • Inattentive drivers
  • Sports utility vehicles (SUVs), minivans, trucks, and other large vehicles
  • Intersections without pedestrian crossing lights

Although there does appear to be some effort to improve pedestrian dignity and safety in Lexington, we still see far too many pedestrian accident victims at the Law Office of Todd W. Burris.

Pedestrians who are traversing poorly designed sidewalks or areas with no sidewalks at all can reduce their risk of being involved in a pedestrian accident by:

  • Improving their visibility
  • Sticking to well-lit areas when possible
  • Walking facing the flow of traffic

Prioritizing Recovery After a Pedestrian Accident

Poor sidewalk design is not an excuse for negligent drivers who have injured pedestrians in collisions. Holding these types of reckless drivers responsible for their actions is just one way you can prioritize your recovery.

We know that focusing on your own healing and recovery can be hard. That’s why the lawyers at the Law Office of Todd W. Burris fight so hard to make sure that every victim has the opportunity to pursue compensation necessary to their recovery.

At the Law Office of Todd W. Burris, we know the tricks and tactics insurance companies use to convince injury victims to accept less than what they deserve. To learn more about your options for filing a personal injury claim or how we can help, contact our office to schedule a confidential consultation.

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