I do not have time to edit this excellent, but long, article. Delaware is one of the worst states in America for pedestrian safety, and should do much better.
Excerpts from the Article:
Over the past decade, the number of pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities on Delaware’s roadways has nearly doubled, yet many of the most dangerous roads for pedestrians and drivers alike remain largely unchanged.
The First State saw non-motorized fatalities climb from 21 in 2009 to 40 in 2019, the last full year before the pandemic and the latest statistics available through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s online database.
Those numbers were slightly lower in recent years: 28 fatalities in 2020 and 31 deaths in 2021, according to the Delaware Office of Highway Safety.
Although Delaware’s total pedestrian fatalities come nowhere close to larger states like California or Florida, it consistently ranks among the worst in the nation for pedestrian safety. There were 535 pedestrian or bicyclist-involved crashes in 2019, averaging nearly 1.5 each day in Delaware. The First State’s pedestrian fatality rate was 3.29 per 100,000 residents in 2019, federal traffic safety data shows. The only state worse off that year was Florida, with a rate of 3.32 pedestrians killed per 100,000 residents.
The state has added crosswalks and traffic signals to provide safer passage across Delaware’s multi-lane, high-speed thoroughfares for non-motorized users, but larger road calming projects – like reducing traffic lanes, slowing speeds and other techniques – often are avoided because of cost, community opposition or concerns of traffic congestion.
Bike Delaware, which advocates for safer roadway access for bicyclists and pedestrians, said there’s an overall lack of political will to pursue progressive roadway changes and so the grassroots group now advocates for less controversial improvements like median barriers.
“Traffic calming – for better or worse – does not seem to be an option on the big suburban roads where the problem is, so we have pushed for other ways to make progress,” James Wilson, of Bike Delaware, said. “DelDOT tries to do traffic calming projects and sometimes they don’t happen because they get shot down by local opposition.”
Traffic congestion becomes more likely as new residential and commercial development is concentrated on the main arteries, necessitating traffic studies and an examination of whether roadway improvements and pedestrian infrastructure should be added.
While developers are expected to consider all modes of transportation when designing and building new residential or commercial space, the standards used are car-centric, focusing on traffic engineering impacts to drivers rather than all users.
Depending on the size of a project, there are certain traffic requirements developers must follow, like conducting a traffic study and making any necessary road improvements. In some cases, though, developers can avoid improvements altogether by seeking a waiver of service level requirements from local government agencies.
New Castle County has issued two waivers in recent memory, one in 2016 for developing the Brandywine Campus of Wilmington University on Concord Pike, U.S. 202, which added three, three-story buildings, sidewalks, roads and parking lots to once vacant land.
A $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure plan aims to grow the economy in part through greener infrastructure and sets aside more than $13 billion for roadway safety in communities, helping fund tougher speeding enforcement, new crosswalks, safety lighting and underpasses beneath busy roads, among other efforts.
Communities that have adopted “Vision Zero” plans, in which local political leaders commit to concrete efforts to eliminate roadway deaths, can access additional federal funding, said Pam Shadel Fischer, senior director of external engagement for the federal Governors Highway Safety Association.
First implemented in Sweden in the 1990s, Vision Zero is a strategy to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries, while increasing safe, healthy, equitable mobility for all.
Delaware State Police investigate a serious pedestrian crash on Silverside Road at Marsh Road on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021.
The key differences with this approach are a recognition that people will make mistakes and so the road system should be designed to ensure those “inevitable mistakes” don’t result in severe injury or death and a multidisciplinary approach that considers roadway design, speeds, behaviors, technology and policies, according to the Vision Zero Network website.
“It’s an approach that looks at how we can best move people around on our roadway system and make it as forgiving as possible because people make mistakes,” Fischer said. “There’s a focus on infrastructure, coupled with equity and equitable enforcement, an education component and also a big focus on speed reduction, because we know speed is such a problem. It mirrors what we are saying in taking that comprehensive approach.”
No communities in Delaware have adopted this initiative, but they are toying with the idea.
New Castle County’s comprehensive plan has a strong focus on making communities accessible for all modes of transportation, recognizing that the suburban county’s roads were designed primarily for cars, Hall said.
“As the county matures and we have more infill and think more about making our existing communities, and new ones, more connected, more vibrant, hopefully more walkable and bikeable, there needs to be a more elaborate and mature look at transportation,” Hall said. “It’s not just cars. We need to focus on moving people not cars.”