AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin’s downtown area makes up less than 1% of the city’s road network, but Austin Transportation officials said more than 10% of crashes involving pedestrians happen downtown.
That’s why the city’s transportation department has implemented Leading Pedestrian Intervals, or LPI, across downtown.
“We strongly believe more LPIs on the highest-risk traffic corridors will increase safety for everyone. We will regularly assess the LPIs’ performance and make adjustments as needed,” Arterial Management Division Manager Jen Duthie said.
LPIs activate a pedestrian walk signal early. Providing pedestrians with a five-to-seven-second head start to cross before the red light for drivers turns green.
“The bottom line is it really comes down to realizing there are other people in the city other than people in cars,” Kathy Sokolic said.
Sokolic leads pedestrian safety efforts at the Central Texas Families for Safe Streets group.
“We probably have the worst club in Austin that people join,” she said. That’s because all the members have been impacted by pedestrians crashes one way or another.
The group is made up of survivors and families of victims. In 2016, Sokolic’s nine-year-old nephew, Ben Sears, was hit by a driver while attempting to cross the road going home.
“He was getting dropped off and got hit by a pickup truck,” she said. “He is incapacitated so he requires 24-hour care.”
While a couple of seconds may not seem like much, Sokolic believes LPIs can make a difference.
A Transportation Research Board Study shows LPIs can reduce the number of pedestrians hit by drivers by as much as 60%.
At present, there are 110 LPIs in place but this initiative doubles that amount. ATD officials said in the last five years between January 2015 through October 2019. A total of 203 crashes, or 12%, happened downtown.