Only a few words today, as KOB has the story of Richard Barela, who was killed walking along unlit, sidewalk-free Dennis Chavez Blvd. west of Coors Blvd. last Thursday night. While KOB reporter Colton Stone’s piece is almost unique in that it actually touches both upon the life of the victim and the lack of road infrastructure contributing to Barela’s death, the piece is also literally unique in that it’s the only mention in any Burque media outlet that the event even occurred.
That’s where we are these days. Pedestrian deaths are happening so often they largely aren’t even worth reporting.
The latest update from the UNM Geospatial and Population Studies Traffic Research Unit shows 24 pedestrian deaths in the first four months of 2016, a rate on par with the highest number of such deaths in recent years, 74, in 2014. Since 2010, 303 pedestrians have died on New Mexico roads.
Barela’s death, like many others here and around the country, happened in a low-income area with very poor road infrastructure. That low income folks walk more is common sense; that the roads in poor areas of town are the least hospitable to walkers is anything but.
In related news, there actually has been another recent local story on pedestrian matters here. Lysee Mitri at KRQE has a report on the difficulties of pedestrians crossing downtown streets, particularly those close to the soon-to-be-opening grocery and other stores in Silver Street Market at 2nd. Councilor Isaac Benton is working to improve the situation based on citizen input, as well as recommendations made by noted urban designer Jeff Speck two years ago. Benton admits he and the city are “sorry it’s taking this long.”
As Albuquerque fitfully moves toward becoming a modern city, its antiquated emphasis on getting motorists wherever they’re going as fast as possible, with very little regard for those not in cars, continues to unnecessarily endanger those taking other modes of travel, most pointedly our pedestrians.