Tierrabyte: A Look at Where San Antonio’s Pedestrian Fatalities Occur

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A pedestrian was hit by a rear view mirror of a moving car at the intersection of Main Street and Houston Street in downtown San Antonio in September 2017.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

A pedestrian was injured by the rear-view mirror of a moving car at the intersection of Main Street and Houston Street in downtown San Antonio in September 2017.

One evening in October 2016, Whitney Sattler and his wife, Jessica, walked back to their car after having dinner downtown. They waited at a crosswalk near Travis Park before crossing Navarro Street to get to a parking garage.

“We got the go-ahead – a little white ‘walk’ signal, so we crossed the street,” he said.

Suddenly, a truck came barreling toward them, striking Jessica Sattler.

“We tried in that split second to head back when we realized [the driver] wasn’t stopping, but it was too late for that,” she said. The truck’s bumper grazed her husband.

The Sattlers and 776 other pedestrians were involved in collisions with motor vehicles in San Antonio that year, according to data provided by the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s analysis of the Crash Records Information System (CRIS) data published by the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDoT).

The San Antonio-New Braunfels metropolitan area ranks as the 28th most dangerous city for pedestrians, out of 104 metro areas surveyed in a 2016 study released by Smart Growth America, a national research coalition based in Washington, D.C. The study reported 421 local pedestrian deaths between 2005 and 2014.

The number of local pedestrian deaths is down 25 percent since 2016, according to the CRIS data, but 51 pedestrians lost their lives in 2017, a number that local leaders say is unacceptable.

Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5) in 2015 led City efforts to adopt a local version of the national Vision Zero Initiative aimed at eliminating pedestrian injuries or deaths on roadways.

An analysis by the Rivard Report shows hot spots for pedestrian fatalities and streets with the highest numbers of fatalities in 2016 and 2017. They include San Pedro Avenue (nine deaths), Culebra Road (eight deaths), Austin Highway (six deaths), and Zarzamora Street (six deaths).

The map below shows the location of pedestrian fatalities in 2016 and 2017, using the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Authority’s analysis of the CRIS data.

Gonzales said those roads are hot spots for pedestrian fatalities because residents in adjacent neighborhoods continue to treat major arterial roads as the smaller neighborhood streets they once were.

“That’s why we have so many fatalities on those roads – because they’re still neighborhoods,” she said. “People try to cross to go to school, church, and our public libraries.”

After being struck by the truck, Jessica Sattler sustained injuries to her back and swelling and bruising in her legs. “It was a miracle we weren’t hurt worse,” she said.

The City hopes to reduce pedestrian fatalities on San Antonio’s roadways by improving street infrastructure such as crosswalks and sidewalks while also educating the public on how to cross streets safely and lawfully.

“Mobility is important, but safety is the No. 1 priority of the City,” said Mike Frisbie, director of the City’s Transportation and Capital Improvements Department (TCI).

In 2017, voters approved a $850 million municipal bond that included $445 million in improvements to streets, bridges, and sidewalks. The funds will be split across 180 projects, Frisbie said, 65 percent of which are within designated regional centers outlined by SA Tomorrow, the City’s comprehensive plan.

Street improvements made using the bond money will be for “complete streets,” Frisbie said, a term that refers to street sections containing multimodal transportation options, such as dedicated bike lanes, sidewalks, and room for public transit in addition to single-occupancy vehicles.

These infrastructure elements also are thought to reduce pedestrian collisions and fatalities because they include median islands, accessible pedestrian signals, and curb extensions, according to the Smart Growth America study.

Designing for multiple modes of transportation on a street also gives people other transportation options beyond single-occupancy vehicles, which benefits low-income communities, Gonzales said.

“We know that it costs about $8,300 a year to maintain an automobile. And in our city, where the average income is around $45,000, that’s around 30 percent of some people’s income – more than they spend on housing,” she said.

According to SA2020, there are 2,370 miles of complete streets in San Antonio. SA2020 has a goal of reaching more than 6,000 miles of complete streets by 2020.

The driver who hit Sattler sped off after stopping briefly to allow her husband to pull her out from under the truck.

Sattler said she now uses extraordinary caution when crossing streets. “I almost get paralyzed every time I cross the street thinking, ‘Is this car going to stop?'”

10 thoughts on “Tierrabyte: A Look at Where San Antonio’s Pedestrian Fatalities Occur

  1. Are we surprised by the number of pedestrian deaths and injuries? I am surprised the totals are not higher. The article says nothing about educating DRIVERS. I’m sure everyone agrees with me that bad driving is the norm in our city. Folks drive down the middle of residential streets and suddenly hit the brakes when an oncoming car comes at them from a curve or corner. And what’s with this game of chicken that folks (especially guys in pickups) initiate when two cars approach each other on a street with parked cars? It amazes me that many people (guys, usually) SPEED UP in that situation to claim “Me first; screw you!) rather than the scenario of both drivers negotiating the narrowed driving lane carefully & slowly.
    Ah, yes, we’re in Texas, where “might is right” is one form of the state motto. Cars rule; pedestrians are fools?
    What’s with these drivers going 30 mph in a mall/strip center parking lot? A parking lot is a glorified sidewalk. There are people walking there.
    True, many drivers are considerate and communicative. The “go ahead” wave and the “thanks for letting me go” wave happen… sometimes.
    I’ve crossed in a crosswalk that changed to “Walk” many times only to get practically mowed down by someone turning right. I’ve even received middle-fingers from such drivers (who are breaking the law).
    And I won’t even mention the white stop line that cars are supposed to stop at to keep crosswalk clear for pedestrians.
    Speaking of solid white lines, those are IGNORED by most drivers when changing to an exit lane on a highway. If you (like me) wait for the solid line to change to dashed before changing lanes, you’ll be outta luck because Bad Driver No. 3,225,305 has already crossed the solid white line preventing you from changing lanes.
    I theorize that the age of distracted driving as caused driving attention to deteriorate even when not engaged in distracted activities (cell phone, radio adjusting, animated conversation, etc.)
    And what’s with this “San Antonio left turn”???? Drivers make left turns by corner-cutting the oncoming lane where they are turning. That’s called driving on the WRONG side of the street. Can’t anyone steer their car in a 90-degree turn to the left?
    And what’s with this zooming in the oncoming lane before making a right turn? Is a silly little right turn too difficult to negotiate without getting into the oncoming lane to give you an easier turn?
    Don’t get me started. Too late; I’m started.
    Finally….turn indicators! The DMV handbook says to turn on your indicator 100 FEET BEFORE TURNING. We’ve all seen drivers sit at a stop light without indicating UNTIL THE LIGHT TURNS GREEN. (This is a wonderful source of road rage). And what about changing lanes on 410 or 10 or 281? Turn on your turn signal AS SOON AS YOU ARE CONSIDERING TRYING TO CHANGE LANES, not when you are actually changing lanes (Duh, we get it…you’re in a new lane).
    Why doesn’t DMV or TxDOT launch a driver education program? PSAs every couple weeks with a “good drive tip” that reviews driving rules that are routinely ignored (or unknown).
    Many people learn to drive from a parent or relative, which means those parent/relative’s bad driving habits are passed on.

    • Well said. And thank you. I too noted the article was biased… making the assumption that it is the pedestrians that are somehow at fault, even through the case given is one where pedestrians were following the law, and apparently the drivers was not. And am I missing something? The RR writer states: “The driver who hit Slatter sped off after stopping briefly to allow her husband to pull her out from under the truck.” But, uncomprehendingly, this statement is not followed up by some concern about the issue of illegality of such an act?? What. The driver stopped to let her husband get her out from under the truck and then took off.. End of story? What? Really. Is this the new norm?
      Aside from the issue of blaming victims, there is also the red flag: Cell phones! BOTH pedestrians AND drivers are guilty of this and some are paying the price. Finally, parents, please stay off main streets with your children on bikes and in strollers. I know it looks all millennial and cool, but seriously..it takes one, just one split second…..and tragedy happens, not matter how privileged you are.

  2. I would support more money dedicated to crosswalks between intersections. These could have the flashing yellow lights to alert vehicular traffic (includes cyclists, scooters, and Urb-Es) that you are approaching one, and flashing red lights to stop vehicular traffic for crossing pedestrians. Waaaay too many long stretches of road between crosswalks at intersections in our city, where pedestrians, unlawfully but understandably, jaywalk. Thank you, my fellow SA residents, for the 2017 bond!

  3. As car congestion and accidents grow, more car drivers will avert hitting another car by instictivelly moving to a path of least resistance. During the few seconds of a car accident, the car driver may not see a pedestrian or bicyclist in the path of least resistance.

    The growing 200 mile of the Howard Peak Greenway Trail System, and the River Walk trails, are a safer alternative to walking or biking next to cars.

    See NatureTrailMaps.net for a safer transportation alternative.

  4. I think that Vision Zero is a great initiative to keep pedestrians safe, however, I don’t think the city has really done a great job at promoting it. From interaction with my community, it seems that the only people who know about Vision Zero are those who are active cyclists, walkers/runners, or those who read the news and keep up with city policies. Sure, the safe infrastructure will come, but it won’t keep us safe until we change the culture of the car in a car centric city. Educate, educate, educate.

  5. Watch out when you use the new “Z” crossings at the DoSeum on Broadway and other locations. Drivers are not used to stopping in the middle of the block for pedestrians.

    • Most SA drivers are not used to stopping for pedestrians PERIOD.
      I saw a disabled person crossing San Pedro — admittedly a big busy street — WITH THE WALK SIGNAL and cars kept zooming around her like she was a traffic cone. She had the right of way; the cars did not. I think she had something like cerebral palsy and was doing a very admirable job of walking across that street. Must have been terrifying for her to have assholes driving around her like she was a form of roadkill. This town (and state) REALLY needs remedial driver education. Everyone thinks the roads exist just for them.

  6. I find it very disturbing of all the finger pointing towards the driver, but just how many of the deaths in 2017 were actually from a pedestrian not following the laws of crossing? I think the education needs on to be on both sides. The responsibility is on both sides. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had to slam on my breaks because someone was too lazy to walk to the crosswalk. The courtesy needs to be on both sides.

    • Actually what is very disturbing is how uninformed you and other drivers are. In Texas, ALL intersections are crosswalks and pedestrians always have right-of-way. Crosswalks do not have to be marked. Please try to have a basic understanding of the rules of the road before getting into a vehicle.

  7. It is sad to say that our roads are not safe for pedestrians, cyclists and yes motorists. I am a 60 year old male and a daily rider in the Northwood, Terrell Heights and Terrell Hills area.
    Most users of the road are courteous and respect others. However, 2% of motorists are not. Just in last 10 days there have been two deaths which involved Police Officers. In their cases, they were responding to calls and traveling above the posted speed limit. It can be assumed that there was some distraction ongoing with onboard police radios and computers and perhaps with victims as well.
    The end result was that the Police hit and kill two people in our streets.

    On the hand, the law in San Antonio requires cyclist to have lights front and rear on bike. It would also be good idea if pedestrains had some type of illumination when out at night.
    If everyone would follow the posted speed limit and stay off the phone the number of accidents in San Antonio would decrease dramatically.

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