In the West End of Johnstown, road conditions for pedestrians are substandard in certain areas creating a significant risk of pedestrian accidents. A barrier wall separating a pedestrian area from a one mile stretch of railroad tracks is deteriorating badly, putting walkers at risk. In surrounding areas where there are a growing number of small businesses, there are also no crosswalks, no sidewalks, and no lighting. All of this means pedestrians are in danger if they want to walk around the area.
Pedestrians and motorists have a lot of responsibility for avoiding pedestrian crashes. Both workers and drivers need to obey the rules of the road and pay careful attention at all times. If drivers fail to do so and hurt pedestrians, they can be held legally accountable.
Urging drivers and pedestrians to be careful, however, has unfortunately done nothing to stop the increasing number of pedestrian fatalities which occur annually. Making changes and improvements to road conditions can do what drivers and walkers have been unable to do so: bring the pedestrian death rate down.
The project may help create safer conditions for pedestrians. A new barrier wall is going to be built to provide more separation between pedestrians and the railway. Asphalt paving is going to be replaced. Sidewalks and landscaping will also be added, as well as new lighting in the area. In total, a one mile stretch will be improved. The total cost of the project is expected to be around $1.7 million.
The high costs, especially considering the project will only improve approximately a one mile area, illustrate the challenges in retrofitting spaces to make them safer for pedestrians. For a long time, roads have not been designed with the needs of walkers in mind but instead focused only on accommodating car traffic.
Trends are changing now, with Complete Streets programs urging consideration of the needs of all road users- including pedestrians, bicyclists and public transport users- in road design projects. The federal government also requires under the federal surface transportation law that road construction take into account the needs of pedestrians and bike riders on new projects.
Over time, more roads will become pedestrian friendly, like this mile of roads in the West End of Johnstown. However, if this brings more pedestrians to the area, drivers will need to be even more cautious and careful to make sure they are sharing the road in a safe way.