Many crosswalk signals in the state do not allow enough time for people to safely cross, an audit by the AARP finds
For many pedestrians in Hawaii, it's a race just to cross the street.
AARP Hawaii says that at 37 percent of 50 crosswalks recently surveyed, a normal person didn't have enough time to cross, while at 48 percent, a person with limited physical abilities couldn't get across.
And pedestrians have the least time to cross -- less than 10 seconds -- at some of Hawaii's busiest streets.
Those were among the findings by more than 250 volunteers who audited 50 intersections statewide on AARP's National Day of Services on May 11. Observations were made from 7 a.m. to about 3 p.m.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
People crossed Kapiolani and Keeaumoku streets yesterday, No. 3 on AARP's list, left.
The conclusion was no surprise: Many streets aren't safe for people on foot.
Hawaii has the 11th highest pedestrian fatality rate in the nation and the highest pedestrian fatality rate among residents age 65 and older, AARP Hawaii points out.
The audit focuses on two primary issues: environmental or structural constraints that add to pedestrian fatalities, and how drivers and walkers co-exist, said Bruce Bottorff, AARP Hawaii associate state director for communications.
He said the data serve "to reinforce that there is an awful lot of work to be done on all sides."
Not having enough time to cross a street safely was the most common issue, said Jackie Boland, AARP Hawaii associate state director for community outreach who mobilized the volunteers.
The "Walk Audit Report: Making Pedestrian Safety and Walkability A Top Priority," drafted by the state Health Department's Injury Prevention and Control Section, also cites these problems:
» About 59 percent of observed sidewalks were blocked by poles, signs or vegetation, or were cracked or broken.
» Drivers at more than half the locations observed were speeding (58 percent) or stopping in crosswalks (54 percent). This was more common on Oahu than on the neighbor islands.
Some observers were at sites with more than one crosswalk, making a total of 81 that were audited.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Students yesterday cruised across the Farrington Highway crosswalk fronting Waianae High School, which is listed by AARP as one of Hawaii's worst pedestrian safety sites.
A lot of signal times are too short and there is confusion about how the signals work, Boland said.
She said AARP Hawaii is advocating installation of countdown timers, and the state Department of Transportation is planning on changing as many signals as it can. The timers are visible as they count down and make a sound, she said, noting there is one on Punchbowl by the state Capitol.
Speeding cars and too much traffic were the top reasons for walkers feeling unsafe, especially on Oahu, the report said.
Only one Kahului site was rated "excellent" for safety. The most common rating for other sites was "fair."
Volunteers selected streets to audit from a Transportation Department report that listed long stretches of the most dangerous roads, Boland said. "Almost everything our volunteers picked fit with where accidents occurred."
She said she had a lot of calls from people in Waipahu wanting volunteers to look at walkers' safety there, but she didn't have enough volunteers.
"I had a couple hundred volunteers, but had 500 to 600 people call who wanted to tell us where to go," she said, adding that she still gets calls and letters from people about dangerous pedestrian areas.
The report recommends that engineers and policymakers, planners, educators and enforcement officials follow up on the audit information using a comprehensive approach. It suggests including engineering, educational and enforcement strategies, known as the "three E's."
For example, the report said, encouraging motorists to stop for pedestrians requires that roads be designed for motorists at lower speeds, that police give warnings and tickets for violations, and public education programs be used simultaneously to educate the public about enforcement efforts and the importance of following the laws.
Besides engineering solutions to improve pedestrian safety, AARP Hawaii says policy and planning must be done to design streets with pedestrians in mind and plan land use to encourage walking and bicycling.
"Hopefully, we can collaborate and get a solution," Boland said. "They (authorities) can't, based on one study, go out and make a whole bunch of changes, but they can look at areas where they are planning to make changes anyway."
AARP Hawaii supports Honolulu City Charter Amendment No. 8 on the Nov. 7 ballot that makes it a priority of the Department of Transportation Services to make Honolulu "a pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly city," Bottorff said.
The audit report identifies problems at individual locations with crossing the street, sidewalks, driver behavior, comfort and appeal. Specific structural changes are recommended at some locations, such as adding curb cuts on all four corners at Ala Moana Boulevard and Hobron Lane.
Therese Argoud, Walkable Communities coordinator in the Health Department's Injury Prevention and Control Center, said the recommendations "reflect both AARP and the department's perspective on the importance of this issue and the need for a comprehensive approach that involves not just education, but environmental and enforcement strategies."
She said there is a great opportunity to address the issues because of national and local funding, public support, and state and county decision-makers coming together to work on the problems.
"We have such potential in Hawaii to make this a bicycling and pedestrian paradise," she said.
Bottorff said AARP Hawaii is trying to work more closely with the city's Department of Transportation Services, and the state DOT has indicated it's willing to look at problem areas.
An idea being discussed is to focus on an intersection and use it as an example of how new technologies can make pedestrian crossing safer, such as illuminated strips on the street, he said.
With discussions on rail transit, Bottorff added, "the time is right now" to incorporate safe environments for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Transportation spokesman Scott Ishikawa said they welcome the AARP walk audit. "Any kind of research that would help benefit the pedestrians, we'll take a look at it and see if we can put it to use."
He said the department is looking at a Safe Routes to School Program that would be federally funded and make pedestrian safety improvements near schools.
AARP Hawaii hopes next year to look at changes to make it more appealing for people to walk, such as trees for shade and places to sit, Boland said. "If we can get more people walking, we can get them off the road."
She also pointed to the nation's obesity epidemic. "If it's comfortable and safe for people to walk, we accomplish multiple goals."
AARP ranked 50 sites statewide based on responses to a survey of pedestrians. The survey asked about pedestrian environments including crossing the street, sidewalks, safety, and comfort and appeal.
The following sites needed the most improvements, according to the survey. Sites with the same ranking had the same score.
1. Farrington Highway at Waianae High School
2. Kahuhipa and Kawa streets, Kaneohe
2. Senior Residence, 45-705 Kamehameha Highway, near Hoene Place, Kaneohe
2. Haili Street and Kamehameha Avenue, Hilo
3. Kuulei and Kailua roads, Kailua
3. Keeaumoku Street and Kapiolani Boulevard
3. Ala Moana and Hobron Lane
When more than 250 volunteers headed out May 11 on AARP's National Day of Services to audit 50 intersections statewide, here's what they found:
» At 37 percent of 50 crosswalks recently surveyed, a normal person did not have enough time to cross while at 48 percent, a person with limited physical abilities could not get across.
» Pedestrians have the least time to cross -- less than 10 seconds -- at some of Hawaii's busiest streets.
» Hawaii has the 11th highest pedestrian fatality rate in the nation.
» Hawaii has the highest pedestrian fatality rate among senior residents, age 65 and older.