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Engineering environments for pedestrian safety [Letter]

Last weekend a 21-year-old University of Maryland student from Randallstown was struck and killed by a minivan ("University of Maryland, city officials urge pedestrian safety on U.S. 1," July 7).

While tragic on its own, two additional pedestrians have been killed in the last six months, all near College Park on U.S. Route 1, the campus' busiest road.

State Highway Administration officials have worked to prevent future deaths by posting "No Pedestrian" signs, marking curbs and crosswalks, trimming trees and re-timing traffic signals.

Officials hope the changes are steps in a safer direction, but more can done, as the Maryland Highway Safety Office acknowledged by joining other states and organizations in adopting the goal of the national initiative "Toward Zero Deaths: A National Strategy on Highway Safety" to reduce traffic fatalities by half by 2030.

Vision Zero provides the framework and call to action that will enable those who have the power to make changes put in place the proper protections for all road users.

Beyond the tragic statistics of pedestrian deaths and injuries, inadequate pedestrian walkways pose a significant deterrent to walking — the number one aerobic activity for adults in the U.S. and by far the most common method of getting around campus at the University of Maryland and other universities.

Walking is a gentle, low-impact form of exercise that's suitable for people of all ages and abilities. Walking at least 30 minutes a day can improve heart health and reduce the risk of diabetes and obesity.

Last year, the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy partnered with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to create "Promoting Safety," a supplement to the city's design guidelines for increasing pedestrian safety and promoting healthy physical activity in the built environment.

The guidelines are a tremendous step in the right direction for pedestrian protection in New York, with potential for widespread adoption, including in College Park.

In College Park, similar initiatives could be put in place to help eliminate traffic deaths — a lofty goal, but one we believe can be achieved by applying the "three E's" of injury prevention: Engineering safer roads and sidewalks, enforcing traffic-related laws and educating all road users.

We at the Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy are working with the city to implement engineering and enforcement solutions and we have launched an evidence-based educational campaign.

Our message — STOP, WAIT, GO SLOW — BE ALERT AND DON'T GET HURT — targets both drivers and pedestrians and is presented with hard-hitting images and stories that show the real tragedy of pedestrian injury. Thousands of residents and visitors have seen and heard the messages and evaluation is under way.

Advancing a safer environment for pedestrians on and around campus requires a paradigm shift in the way we think about road users. Instead of focusing primarily on moving vehicles quickly from one location to another, city leaders should advance policies, environments and messages that align with the overarching concept that no loss of life is acceptable.

Dr. Andrea Gielen, Dr. Keshia Pollack and Eric Schulman, Baltimore

The writers are, respectively, director, associate director and communications director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The opinions expressed are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of Johns Hopkins.

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