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Early Sunday morning, cars zipped west along Culebra Road past street signs reading “SLOW DOWN,” “WALK SAFE,” and “STOP DISTRACTED DRIVING,” meant to commemorate the 122 people who died on San Antonio roads in the past 10 months.
The signs were placed by Vision Zero San Antonio as part of World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, which takes place on the third Sunday of November each year. Vision Zero is an initiative to reduce – and eventually eradicate— traffic fatalities through better enforcement of laws, better street engineering, and better education.
“Knowing that 122 people have died on our roads during the last 10 months, is heartbreaking,” Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5) said in a statement. “My desire is for each person to take action to learn and practice safety in their own lives.”
Signs were installed along Culebra Road from Zarzamora to 28th Street, a corridor noted for having a high frequency of severe pedestrian injuries and fatalities.
In May, a walkability analysis of the West Side was completed by walkWestside, an advocacy coalition formed this year to encourage pedestrian mobility, found that the number of pedestrian injuries and fatalities in the area increased from 76 in 2013 to 118 in 2016, then turned down slightly in 2017 to 86.
The Zarzamora Street corridor, between West Woodlawn Avenue and Frio City Road, had the highest concentration of car accidents involving pedestrians. Utility poles in the middle of sidewalks prevent wheelchair users from passing and two people from walking side-by-side, and the speed limit of 40 mph makes it dangerous for pedestrians to cross the street even when crosswalks are present.
Sarah Gonzales was walking with her brother and sister along a stretch of sidewalk that was well-maintained, but just two blocks up the street the sidewalk abruptly ends, pushing people to walk over unmowed grass and dirt patches or on the road.
“I think that making the cars go slower would make me feel safer to walk around,” Gonzales said.
The City’s 2019 budget allocated $9 million toward pedestrian mobility, a threefold increase, including improving streets, walkways, signage, and education.
“One of the most significant ways we can honor those who have lost their lives on San Antonio roadways is to educate others on safe driving, biking and walking practices,” Art Reinhardt, assistant director of the City of San Antonio’s Transportation and Capital Improvements Department, said in a statement. “Deaths caused by roadway crashes are sudden and traumatic, but are also avoidable. We want our community to understand the importance of traffic safety in order to prevent future deaths. Through placing these signs in an area that has a history of high traffic incidents, we can reach the community in a very tangible way.”