About 20 people gathered Tuesday night in City Council member Kevin Roden’s living room to talk about pedestrian safety, and by evening’s end, they pledged to gather information needed to bring about change.
Roden opened his doors to the event in hopes of starting a pedestrian safety task force after Texas Woman’s University student Brenna Charless Taylor was fatally struck by a motorist as she crossed Bell Avenue on Thursday night.
TWU professor Dan Krutka said he’s been concerned for some time about many places in central Denton where sidewalks end, including the spot where Taylor was killed.
“There’s no safe way home; the sidewalk just ends,” Krutka said. “I tweeted about that two months ago.”
He came to the meeting because he said city and university officials must realize that when accidents happen, it might not be enough to simply call them accidents.
“We may have built environments that foster more accidents and we have to fix that,” Krutka said.
A Denton Record-Chronicle analysis in October 2014 found that vehicle-bicycle and vehicle-pedestrian accidents have increased in recent years.
In 2009, there were 45 accidents between Denton drivers and cyclists or pedestrians. By 2012, that number climbed to 59 — a 30 percent increase at a time when the city’s population increased about 7 percent.
Between 2008 and 2012, most of the increase in those accidents came between drivers and pedestrians. The number of driver-cyclist incidents remained fairly flat, hovering between 20 and 24 accidents each year.
However, police responded to 33 vehicle-bicycle accidents between February 2013 and March 2014 and another 40 between vehicles and cyclists. Ten of those 73 accidents were serious enough to send either the cyclist or pedestrian to a hospital with incapacitating injuries.
Adam Krawiec, who launched the website WalkDenton.com, said he would be willing to work with the same team that developed VoteDenton.org to develop a mobile app. Both residents and visitors could be encouraged to use the app to provide their assessment of sidewalks and crosswalks, Krawiec said.
The app could be set up to collect information on conditions of the sidewalks, crosswalks, the lighting, the traffic signals and whether an elementary student would feel safe walking there.
Those assessments, in turn, could be analyzed and provided to the city as maps or other analytical tools that could help make priorities for improvements, he said.
Roden said he had already received about 60 responses on his blog, rodenfordenton.com, about problem spots, but they were all over the city. He urged the group to consider staying focused on the city’s center for now, particularly where pedestrian traffic is the most concentrated.
The city has no formal assessment of its sidewalks and crosswalks, he said.
Devin Taylor, who serves on the Planning and Zoning Commission, said he thought the group could gather the information needed for such an assessment to help get started. He said he was concerned that if too much of the work was handed off to others, even to the city’s new bicycle and pedestrian coordinator who starts on Monday, it could take as long as the bike plan — which took three years.
Krawiec said that if they put a team together to develop the app, they could be finished within a month. The app could even seek drivers’ perspectives and encourage people to make their own assessment of a spot.
“I think they should be able to mark a spot with a skull and crossbones if they find a crosswalk, but really think you shouldn’t use it,” Krawiec said.
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.