Sharon Garry is on a mission this school year: She wants to make sure pedestrians and drivers see each other, especially since this school year marks a shift in daily rush hour travel that dwindled in 2020.
“Part of the issue was in COVID, people really got out. That was the big push," said Garry who is the grant coordinator for Hamilton County Safe Communities. "Let’s get outside. Let’s take walks. Let’s be around. More cars were speeding. More cars were not paying attention because there was less traffic on the roads.”
However, if you have traveled Tri-State highways and main roads lately, volume has been gradually increasing, especially with more schools reopening for in-person learning. Hamilton County Safe Communities has partnered with multiple police departments across the county in an effort to remind drivers and pedestrians to look out for each other.
Garry said the organization has about 500 signs around town, as well as billboards with a message: See and Be Seen, We're all Responsible.
“So, the biggest push now is to make that change to say 'hey remember, look there’s going to be school buses out. You’re going to have to adjust your route, your time to get to work because you might get stuck behind a school bus and you’re going to have to wait,'” she said.
Lieutenant Phillip Paul with the Madeira Police Department put several signs into his police cruiser to place at high-traffic intersections.
“That’s one of the great things about these signs. It’s just a time to pause and think about how can I travel safely and make sure that pedestrians are traveling safely as well,” he said.
He said the Madiera Police Department has targeted safety events twice a year that are focused on school and pedestrian safety. He also said the community has installed some safety measures to alert drivers to pedestrians crossing the street.
“We have what we call ‘hawk signal’ here in Madeira. You’ll notice it down in some business districts. When you push the button, it activates not just the crosswalk signal but some overhead lights to let you know that you have to stop for pedestrians about to enter the crosswalk," he said.
Under its Vision Zero program to improve pedestrian safety and access, the city of Cincinnati outlined 200 projects across the city to implement safety upgrades such as lighted crosswalks, improved signage, sidewalk bump-outs and school zone flashers. The city said about 80 of the projects are near school buildings.
Meanwhile in the city of Cincinnati, data shows there have been about 33 serious or fatal pedestrian crashes so far in 2021. There were 48 crashes in 2020 and 45 in 2019.
Garry said their campaign this year is targeted at both those in cars and those on foot because many times drivers are blamed when a pedestrian is struck. She said sometimes drivers are distracted and other times walkers are distracted. It's 50-50.
“I’ll often see people, they’ll start in the crosswalk and then they get halfway through and then they get back on their phone," she said. “Really pedestrians need to take some more responsibility for their safety. And cars certainly need to slow down.”