Officials launched a public awareness campaign called “Look Alive” on Monday aiming to decrease pedestrian and bicyclist deaths in the Baltimore region.
The initiative comes alongside a ramped-up police effort to enforce laws related to pedestrian traffic safety, said Capt. Joseph Donohue, who leads the operations support division of the Baltimore County Police Department.
“The average car weighs over 3,000 pounds, and most SUVs are over 4,000 pounds,” Donohue said at a press conference Monday morning in Towson. “Even at low speeds, the human body is no match for any motor vehicle.”
Police will ticket drivers who speed or fail to stop for pedestrians at crosswalks, Donohue said.
Drivers will see increased police enforcement through June 3-10, according to the Look Alive campaign website.
Officials will also remind pedestrians and bicyclists to obey traffic signals, stay in designated lanes and use hand signals to indicate turns, he said.
Donahue added later that while pedestrians and bicyclists can be ticketed for violating those rules, issues such as jaywalking are “most often an education issue” and are not an enforcement priority.
Last year, 133 pedestrians and six bicyclists were killed in Maryland, said Chrissy Nizer, Motor Vehicle Administration administrator.
Michael Kelly, executive director of the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, said about half those deaths have taken place in the Baltimore metropolitan region.
Baltimore County accounted for 29 of those deaths, Donahue said.
“Drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists alike must all take responsibility to look up, look out and look alive by focusing on the road,” Nizer said.
Officials brought levity to the event with the introduction of “Signal Woman.” The character, a white-and-silver pedestrian “walk” sign brought to life, is featured in MDOT social media video advertisements also posted on lookalivemd.org.
Bicycle safety efforts have seen recent setbacks in the Baltimore region as Baltimore City has moved to remove bike lanes in Roland Park, Canton and most recently Monument Street in East Baltimore.
Cedric Ward, director of the State Highway Administration’s Office of Traffic Safety, said the state is seeing a rise in pedestrian-involved accidents on high-capacity arterial roads like York Road, which runs behind Millennium Park in Towson, where the press conference was held.
“As our land uses change, a lot of these corridors that used to be a commuter base for through traffic are not oriented with where we are today,” Ward said. “And so, as a result of that, MDOT-SHA has taken a different approach, because we just simply can’t rebuild these roadways overnight.”
Those efforts include resurfacing projects like one on York Road scheduled for completion this fall. That project will include upgraded signals, pavement markings and sidewalks, Ward said.
Kelly, of the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, said that while urban planning is an important piece of the puzzle to preventing fatalities, pedestrian education is vital.
“A lot of this really falls on pedestrians to be as safe and careful as they can possibly be,” Kelly said. “Because ultimately, when a mistake is made, it doesn’t really matter whose it was at the end of it if there’s a tragic event.”
The campaign is a collaboration between the state and local jurisdictions including Baltimore City and Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Howard, Harford, Carroll and Queen Anne’s counties.
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr., who spoke at the press conference, said the county’s recently passed budget will also address pedestrian safety issues through bicycle lanes, pedestrian improvements and traffic calming projects.
“Let’s take this time as the weather is warming up to look out for each other and enjoy this great weather irrespective of our modes of transportation,” Olszewski said.