It absolutely and positively stinks that a tragedy often has to happen before a necessary change is made. It may be part of our reactive nature as humans that we put off the important things until they become so vital that we can’t procrastinate.
This is the case with West 43rd Street in Oak Forest and an upcoming road safety improvement by Houston Public Works, which told me this week that it plans to install a hybrid pedestrian beacon at the intersection of 43rd and Curtin Street, as shown on today’s front page. This intersection is located between the adjacent ISD campuses of Houston Frank Black Middle School and Oak Forest Elementary, with the idea that installing the signal will bring the greatest benefit to both campuses and the children and families who attend them.
A hybrid pedestrian beacon, which is a flashing yellow light that turns red when a pedestrian wants to cross the street and presses a button near the crosswalk, is the same traffic calming measure the city has installed in the Intersection of West 10th Street and North Shepherd Drive into the heights in the summer of 2019. Earlier that year, Timbergrove resident Leesha Adams and wheelchair Jesse Perez were both killed when the first attempted helping the latter to cross Shepherd and they were struck by the driver of a car.
Unfortunately, the signal coming to the 43rd and Curtin has a similar origin story. Three blocks northwest, in June last year, Oak Forest resident Karen Yager was killed by a suspected drunk driver as she attempted to cross 43rd from Cheshire Lane, where she lived.
The fatal accident shook the community and prompted The Leader to investigate the dangers of this section of the 43rd. We reported last September that driving, walking and cycling this route had long been troublesome, with two more fatal crashes in 2005 and 2012.
Between January 2015 and July 2020, according to data we obtained from the city, there were at least 211 traffic accidents and 584 speeding tickets issued on the 43rd between Ella Boulevard in the east and Rosslyn Road in the west. The two schools are roughly in the middle of this stretch.
Our report helped mobilize a group of parents from Frank Black and Oak Forest as well as other community members, who, with help from the office of Houston City Council member Abbie Kamin, submitted 311 requests. to the city, asking for some sort of solution to make crossing the artery safer. . The city then launched a traffic study, which was recently completed and found an average daily traffic count of more than 10,000 vehicles and an average speed of 41 mph in a 35 mph zone, according to the spokesperson for Houston Public Works Erin Jones.
This illustrates a clear need for improved safety, especially when it comes to the neighborhood children we are talking about. Jones said a construction date for the pedestrian signal has yet to be set, so we can only hope the city makes this a priority and installs the infrastructure as soon as possible.
As Tim Weltin, a local resident and longtime Frank Black employee, told me last December when I wrote about the push for traffic calming measures: “This is a tragedy is waiting to happen, and there is no reason for us to wait for tragedy to happen. “
The traffic study and the subsequent involvement of the city are certainly encouraging. And however effective the hybrid pedestrian beacon is, it represents an improvement over the current setup.
There is a traditional traffic light at the intersection of 43rd and Oak Forest Drive, which is on the northeast corner of the Oak Forest Elementary School campus. Going west from there, there is no other signal or even a stop sign for 43rd Street drivers before Frank Black.
Weltin said earlier this week that he was happy that a safety measure was coming, but that he was not yet convinced that the pedestrian beacon would eliminate most of the dangers on this stretch of the 43rd. He cited the speed of vehicles he typically sees on this street and wonders if a full-fledged traffic light would be a better solution.
An Oak Forest resident who lives near the scene of three crashes on 43rd in the past three years, including the fatal crash involving Yager, wants more of the city to make the residential area safer. The resident, who asked to remain anonymous, says the speed on the Shepherd Bridge heading north to 10th Street has not decreased since the pedestrian beacon was installed there two years ago.
“The city has a road safety problem that needs a tourniquet, not a finger splint and bandage,” the resident said.
But the city is moving in the right direction by responding to residents’ concerns and taking action, even if the action does not appeal to everyone. He is also committed to the Vision Zero initiative, which aims to end road deaths and serious injuries by 2030.
To this end, the city has made a notable effort towards the expansion of non-vehicular modes of transport, such as cycling, walking and public transport, by putting in place more and more infrastructure conducive to these modes. of displacement.
Ultimately, Houston might need a cultural shift among its motorists, many of whom tend to like large trucks and spacious vehicles and drive them faster than the posted speed limit.
In the meantime, let’s look forward to some gradual progress. And let’s hope there won’t be too many more tragedies for more progress to be made.