July 9, 2013 | Vol. 73 No. 50

Rudiak demands action on city traffic violence

Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak joined a coalition of neighborhood groups, cycling and pedestrian advocates, and residents of the South Pittsburgh neighborhoods of Council’s 4th District for a press conference on Wednesday, July 3 concerning traffic violence and improving the quality and safety on city streets.

Taking place in front of the Carrick Regency High Rise at 2129 Brownsville Road, the event featured senior citizens who live in the housing complex and its tenant’s council, Economic Development South, South Pittsburgh Development Corporation, Carrick Community Council, Overbrook Community Council and Bike Pittsburgh.

All over the city and the region, a pattern of traffic violence against cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers has emerged. Brownsville Road specifically has been the site of several of these: Tyrique Snowden Hill, 6, of Knoxville was on his bicycle when he was struck and killed by a car in 2010; a woman and her two kids were injured when a car hit a utility pole that struck her on Brownsville Road in September of 2012; Patricia Meinke, 59, of Carrick was crossing Brownsville Road in February of 2013 when she was struck and killed by a car; and last week John Pearson, 55, died after a collision with a car while on his bicycle.

A study commissioned by the councilwoman and the Carrick Community Council found traffic safety was actually the top public safety concern for residents of the Brownsville Road corridor. This mirrors an uptick in constituent calls into the council office from all of the District 4 neighborhoods--Beechview, Bon Air, Brookline, Carrick, and Overbrook--about dangerous intersections, speeding traffic, and a need for better crosswalks or posted signage.

On a local level, several community groups are working to improve their respective residential neighborhoods and business districts in South Pittsburgh, and Bike Pittsburgh is advocating at a city-wide and region-wide level for improvements for cyclists and pedestrians.

The Councilwoman called on the next mayoral administration to engage aggressively with the issue of traffic violence as a top public safety concern, to work to upgrade the city’s public streets and sidewalks toward a “complete streets” model, and to provide concerned residents with tools that will allow them to work proactively to take back their streets and feel safe on their blocks and in their neighborhoods.

Other cities, big and small, are ahead of the curve in how they engineer their streets, educate the public, and enforce traffic laws. There are myriad ways to reimagine the design of streetscapes in simple ways that have big impact: concrete bump-outs, catchy signage, crosswalk design schemes, and creative lighting are all part of a package that can make the streets safer. Public education paired with concerted enforcement can decrease reckless behavior on the roads and save lives.

“One of the benefits of living in our South Pittsburgh neighborhoods is the ability to walk to the grocery store or the pharmacy, or the bus stop or T station,” says Ms. Rudiak. “But more and more we are hearing that residents are afraid to let their children walk to school or that senior citizens are afraid to use the few crosswalks that are at their disposal.

“Without sufficient engineering, education, and enforcement, we’re seeing our main streets turned into highways and our side streets turned into on-ramps. I’m looking forward to working with the next mayoral administration to manage this public safety issue and to empower our block watches, community groups, and residents with the resources to take back their streets.”

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