If You Build it They Will Come, or Get Killed Trying

Who and what was responsible for the death of someone walking somewhere in/near Coors and Rio Bravo Boulevards last night? Waking up this morning we find out no more than was stated immediately after the incident, although it is notable that media is using the word “crash” in their scant reports rather than “accident.”

Of course, such brevity in reporting deaths of those walking our roadways is the well-established norm, these “breaking news” stories flashed almost exclusively to explain to neighbors why they are hearing all the sirens and drivers why the traffic is backed up and the road is closed. The questions of who and what are sometimes left up to a police spokesperson, often not. So far, in the case of last night, we pretty much just have “no other details were immediately available.”

And chances are very good that will be the end of who/what questions in this case. It is roughly 98% of the time.

So in taking a look at last night’s crash, we don’t have much to go on, but we do have this:

coors las estancias 2018 2012 compared
2018 v. 2012

 

A swath of alfalfa fields along Coors Blvd. was sold back in 2003 to Walmart. A “Supercenter” was built, and, after a lengthy lull via The Great Recession, the remaining area sold has filled in with Walmart neighbors:

  • An AMC movie 12-plex with IMAX
  • Planet Fitness
  • Dion’s
  • Panda Express
  • Starbucks
  • More than one health care facility
  • Whataburger, NUSENDA Credit Union, Cash Store, Verizon, a dentist office…

And so on and so on, as is true around so many Supercenters around the country. Debate back in the 2000s about Walmart centered largely on whether the benefits of its retail offerings, many not available for miles around back in those days, were worth the costs of significantly disrupting the rural character of the deep South Valley.

One aspect inadequately debated back then, and now, is the simple fact that creating all these retail/service businesses means that folks will try to get there in a variety of ways. As is almost always the case, the only way envisioned by developers and government would be that people would drive to/from these establishments.

Yeah, there’s an “orphan” bike lane extending down Coors, one nobody in their right mind would cycle upon, but that was only because of legal requirements. And the Walmart itself has a laughable “walkway” of sidewalk winding amid a ridiculous “landscape” of half-dead young trees (and countless Walmart plastic bags) along Rio Bravo.

And a bit south of midway in the stretch along Coors, at Las Estancias, there’s been an installed red light for years now, one that still hasn’t been put into operation.

No, the intention is that you will drive to these establishments, that you will drive fast on roads with, technically, 45 mph speed limits and that there will be a few crashes along the way, because…heck, that’s the cost of having all these great places at which to shop/eat/watch movies.

You know, America.

Hence getting to all these shops by any other means than driving is highly dangerous. There is a bus stop on Coors, but the frequency of the 155 bus is poor and getting to the stop involves several conflict points crossing entryways and intersections. Cycling involves the aforementioned bike lane, at best, and walking in the area is proven to be deadly.

As an example, let’s take another look at the 2018/2012 comparison:

coors las estancias 2018 2012 compared

See the rather large mobile home park to the south on the west side of Coors? A gentleman was killed crossing Coors trying to get back to his home there back in 2016.

Incidents of crashes, many involving pedestrians already put this stretch of roadway in what the regional authorities call the “High Fatal and Injury Network,” as a place where higher than average rates of crashes, injuries and death occur. It is worth noting that data collected for the Network comes from 2011-2015, before many of the businesses along this stretch were built/opened. Doubtlessly, Coors and Rio Bravo will unfortunately zoom higher in Network standings in years to come.

While we know very little about last night’s incident, we do know that building all these establishments without taking into account the fact that some folks must walk to get there is a sure-fire recipe for at least a few of them to be injured and most probably killed.

That is what we know, yet we continue to do far too little about it.

 

 

 

 

 

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