Ogeechee Road and pedestrian deaths: street design matters

Another pedestrian was killed by a car yesterday on Ogeechee Road.

I say “another” because such deaths have become depressingly routine on Ogeechee Road/Highway 17.

In 2009, the Savannah Morning News published Ogeechee Road home to pedestrian deaths, but that piece didn’t deal adequately with the fundamental problem of lack of sidewalks, inadequate and unsafe crossings, and high speeds.

In 2011, Savannah Red posted Ogeechee Road Of Death, in which he estimated that about one-fifth of Chatham County’s pedestrian fatalities in the previous decade occurred on Ogeechee Road. He concluded that “it would probably make sense for city/county planners to install more sidewalks on Savannah’s arterial roads–or lay in some more body bags.”

We have a tendency to blame pedestrians for their own deaths and injuries. I’m sure many of you remember the Savannah metro police’s ludicrous crackdown on jaywalking after a driver struck and killed a pedestrian who was not jaywalking and who had the right of way.

I’ve written quite a lot about pedestrianism on this blog and in my columns over the years. A few key points are glaringly obvious:

  • For decades, our planning was dominated by the concerns of drivers and gave precedence to cars.
  • We neglected those who had to or simply wanted to travel on foot.
  • Pedestrians are dying because of the lack of safe spaces and because of lack of enforcement of existing laws.

We have neglected obvious danger spots like Ogeechee Road for too long.