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Salt Lake City Mayor Tackles Pedestrian Traffic Problem

When Mayor Rocky Anderson took office in January of 2000, he prioritized improving the climate for pedestrians in Salt Lake City. In so doing, he made a statement about the importance of a safe, exciting, and useful walking environment to the city's efforts to revitalize the downtown area and to make it a more friendly, community-centered place. Improving the pedestrian environment also serves the goal of easing pressure on parking infrastructure and lessens reliance on the automobile-an important consideration for improving air quality, attracting new businesses, and relieving congestion.

Salt Lake City's long blocks, unusually wide streets, and the spotlight of hosting the 2002 Olympics provide significant challenges to any pedestrian safety initiative. However, Mayor Anderson formed a Pedestrian Initiatives Committee, with the power to immediately implement solutions, that has already had a significant impact on Salt Lake City's pedestrian environment. While the Ogden-Salt Lake City Metro Area was rated the 12th most deadly area for pedestrians as recently as 1999, no pedestrian fatalities have occurred in Salt Lake City since Mayor Anderson started his pedestrian safety initiative in February of 2000. Also, the committee has implemented a number of cutting-edge initiatives modeled after exemplary projects from around the country that have dramatically improved the walking environment.

Two factors contribute to the success of the committee: 1) Mayoral backing and 2) a well planned composition of committee members. The most important facet of any push for greater pedestrian safety must be the support of the prominent decision makers. In this case, Mayor Anderson has been a vocal proponent of how important pedestrian safety is to the vitality of the city and has provided the necessary resources to the committee to accomplish its goals.

A well representative staff is the second crucial resource for an effective committee. Additionally, the members need to be well connected and have a strong voice with the departments or constituents they represent. Salt Lake City's Pedestrian Initiatives Committee is comprised of a traffic engineer, a police officer, a public relations professional, the city's Transportation Director, an Americans With Disabilities Act expert, a street maintenance director, an intergovernmental facilitator, and the Mayor's Chief Policy Advisor.

Each of these members plays a pivotal role in guaranteeing that all facets of the initiative are covered. For example, our representative from the Police Department has assisted in the important area of traffic enforcement. All too often, traffic infractions that affect pedestrians the most (failure to yield to a pedestrian and running red lights) are the least enforced laws. Another significant facet of pedestrian safety that is often overlooked regards the importance of educating the public to rules and procedures affecting pedestrians. For this reason, the mayor's Communications Director sits on the committee to facilitate the message getting out to the people.

Often, in large cities, streets fall under a confusing array of jurisdictions. The city might be responsible for one street, while the state has jurisdiction over another just a block away. This situation presents the need for facilitation between governments on funding as well as on issues of policy. Perhaps the most important characteristic of a successful committee lies in its ability to have a global perspective and to do research into what other cities and towns are doing to resolve similar problems. When you put all of these traits together, you get a group of people that can have a direct impact on the pedestrian environment.

Salt Lake City has implemented or is moving to implement several initiatives on the cutting edge of pedestrian safety. At the behest of the Pedestrian Initiatives Committee, the Salt Lake City Police Department has started an enforcement program called Police In The Crosswalks (P.I.C) to deter unsafe behaviors and educate both pedestrians and drivers to pedestrian safety law. The committee has also worked to correct the city's fine structure for pedestrian related citations. For example, the fine for failure to yield to a disabled person in a crosswalk has been increased from $100 to $250.

The city has also implemented a Flag Program that supplies brightly colored flags to pedestrians at mid-block crossings or intersections where pedestrian safety is a special concern. This allows the pedestrian more visibility to motorists and serves to remind drivers of the priority of civil driving behaviors. The committee has also prioritized significant infrastructure improvements such as in-street lighting at crosswalks for additional visibility at night, countdown timers for crosswalk signals that let pedestrians know how much time remains to get across the street, increased signage reminding drivers that yielding to pedestrians is the law, and adding "pedestrian refuges" to medians to allow people to stop halfway if they do not have time to go all the way across the street.

If you have any questions about the Salt Lake City's Pedestrian Initiatives or have some good ideas about how to protect pedestrians, please contact Tim Harpst, Director of Transportation, at (801) 535-6630.

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