In August 2012 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports six in 10 people walk for transportation, fun, relaxation, exercise or for activities such as walking the dog. However, fewer than half of all adults get the recommended 150 minutes a week of physical activity due in part to the lack of convenient and safe places to walk.
Todays highway systems were designed to move people and goods quickly, but intersections are a major point of conflict for all road users and are frequent sites of injuries and fatalities. The Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research states that 22 pedestrian/motor vehicle accidents occurred in St. Lawrence County during 2010; 86 percent of those accidents resulted in injuries and one was a fatality.
Effective ways to create a safe environment for all users is the use of the four Es of highway safety: engineering, education, enforcement and emergency response.
In July, the Potsdam Police Department announced enforcement of village crosswalks. Their campaign objective heighten driver awareness of their surroundings, including intersections and pedestrians.
To encourage children to walk and bike, the state Department of Transportation developed the Street Smart Safety Zones program. The DOT advises walkers to:
■ Walk on a sidewalk, if available. No sidewalk? Walk as far off the pavement as possible and face traffic.
■ Be alert and aware of your surroundings.
■ Use pedestrian crossings .
■ Be visible. Wear bright colors and reflective materials, especially at night.
Town, village and city officials can address roadway engineering by enacting Complete Streets policies. These policies ideally set a vision, apply to everyone traveling along the road, and develop a complete and balanced transportation network through the use of tailored design criteria and planning goals that create a livable, strong neighborhood.
The St. Lawrence Health Initiatives Creating Healthy Places to Live, Work and Play project, funded by the state Department of Health, can assist St. Lawrence County communities with developing Complete Streets policies, starting active transportation advisory groups and implementing modest traffic calming strategies.
The writer is Creating Healthy Places Coordinator, St. Lawrence Health Initiative.