A street-crossing gamble: Advocates say it’s time to fix the Millwood Ave. pedestrian problem

Published: Mar. 20, 2019 at 9:00 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - As the South Carolina Department of Transportation continues to study traffic on Millwood Avenue after three pedestrian fatalities there in four years, a bill is in a House committee that would require SCDOT to implement a policy targeting unsafe streets around the state.

WIS caught up with Amy Johnson Ely. She’s the executive director of the Palmetto Cycling Coalition. She’s working alongside lawmakers to get House Bill 3656 passed, which would require SCDOT to implement a “safe streets policy.” The policy aims to get SCDOT to identify dangerous streets and roadways across the state and implement a plan to proactively attack the problem before another tragedy.

“We think that DOT needs to do a combined targeted and a safe systems approach,” said Johnson Ely. “So we hope that they will do certain cost effective things to prevent these kinds of crashes.”

According to a nine-year study by Equitable Cities, LLC., submitted to the Palmetto Cycling Coalition, Richland County has the second-highest pedestrian crash rate in the state, behind Charleston County, at 2.67 crashes per 1,000 people. Johnson Ely said a simple solution on Millwood Avenue would be to add pedestrian islands – like medians – in the middle of the road that could offer refuge to people crossing the street.

We first brought you the story last week, where we caught several jaywalkers and speeding cars creating a dual problem in the Millwood corridor. Johnson Ely said placing a crosswalk there is just not enough.

“Their job is safe mobility,” she said of SCDOT. “So they have to figure out the most cost effective way to meet the needs of every one of their customers regardless of their chosen mode of travel.

According to an SCDOT spokeswoman, they are continuing to study Millwood Avenue, including collecting data on both pedestrian volume and crash data. They plan to present those details to city leaders and other advocates in mid-April.

Meanwhile, more leaders are signing on to House Bill 3656, including State Representative Seth Rose, who represents Richland County.

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