Let's talk about a true traffic headache

By the Advocate Editorial Board
Dec. 7, 2017 at 4:06 p.m.

If we told you there was a free way to decrease the number of auto-pedestrian wrecks in our city, would you believe it?

Chances are you would not, and rightfully so - to an extent.

That's because no amount of funding to enhance our roads can change what we've sadly come to realize - our mindset isn't shifted into the right gear.

The recent auto-pedestrian wreck involving a 32-year-old man in front of Whataburger, near Sam Houston Drive and Houston Highway, brought a flurry of social media comments blaming pedestrians.

We saw more than 100 comments on social media, with a surprising number expressing that many wrecks involving pedestrians were solely the fault of the walkers trying to get from Point A to Point B.

When looking for solutions, online comments like, "Nothing. This is Texas. People don't understand what crosswalks are for" are indicative of this "get off the road" mentality.

Meanwhile, comments like, "Blaming walkers is easy. But what we should be doing is focusing on how to make Victoria walker- and biker-friendly," are more on the mark.

As a community, we must support all our residents, from the walkers to the drivers.

We realize addressing one issue - like mindsets - won't fix this growing problem. After all, this city was very much built to accommodate those who drive in the city rather than those who walk or bike in it.

Pedestrians, for the most part, have taken a back seat.

Those quick to blame pedestrians must slow down and think about real solutions. Promoting less walkability in our city is nonsense - cut and dry.

Whether you drive the city, walk it or both, we all must offer our insights into what will work to make our roads better and safer. At the same time, as drivers, we must realize and accept that streets should be made with all users in mind.

This is why Victoria's 2035 Comprehensive Plan calling for "Complete Streets" - among other important issues - needs our support.

A "Complete Streets" approach would mean building roads that are safer and more accessible for all users, from the bicyclists and pedestrians to the motorists and public transit.

The National Complete Street Coalition highlights many ways to make cities more transportation friendly, ways including raised crosswalks, audible pedestrian signals and bike lanes, just to name a few.

It's imperative that our city and its residents embrace this vision and follow through with it; our lives truly depend on it.

We must realize the growth in the Victoria region has turned our city's streets into a true-life version of the arcade game "Frogger."

We've specifically seen a lot of pedestrian traffic on Houston Highway, a section of our city where pedestrians cross from residential areas to shopping centers and chain restaurants.

It's common to see people darting across five lanes of traffic to get to H-E-B. Farther down the road, we have students crossing this busy business highway just to get to class.

Some argue pedestrians should use the crosswalks and not jaywalk. While a valid argument, in our city, this common sense idea does not work.

Why? Because although crosswalks do exist, gaps of up to half a mile exist between some of them. And at times, broken crosswalk signals make it safer - unfortunately - to cross at a non-intersection where walkers have a chance to see some traffic decongestion.

Lack of sidewalks and poor lighting are also huge problems on many of our roadways for pedestrians and drivers. Drive down Houston Highway one night and look up; you may find the amber lighting is much like what you'd see in your neighborhood rather than what you'd expect to see on a business highway.

We know this problem won't be fixed overnight, but our residents and city and state officials must make our roadways a top priority before another preventable tragedy strikes.

This opinion reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.



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