Marked crosswalks should be a zone of safety for pedestrians to safely cross the street. Crosswalks are the City saying, “Cross here, this is where it is safe.” Historically, The City & County of Honolulu installed crosswalks at locations that were obviously unsafe. All one has to do is think about the many crosswalks the City installed on King Street with no warning lights or means of alerting drivers. So, an unacceptable number of pedestrians, especially elderly pedestrians, were killed on King Street as they tried to cross five lanes of King Street with their only protection being some white lines installed by the City.
Not unexpectedly, as our population and number of vehicles increased, pedestrian deaths began to skyrocket across the City and County of Honolulu.
The public understood.
In 2006, 77% of Honolulu voters approved an amendment to the City Charter to specifically state that the City was to make Honolulu “pedestrian friendly.” (November 6, 2006 Honolulu Charter Amendment 8.)
The City did little or nothing.
Meanwhile, in the next several years, The State of Hawaii achieved notoriety as the most-deadly state for elderly pedestrians to cross the street and we were ranked amongst the top for most deadly states for pedestrians of any age. Of course, much of these embarrassing and deadly rankings is The City & County of Honolulu ignoring crosswalk safety.
In 2009, apparently tiring of The City’s failure to protect pedestrians, The State of Hawaii Legislature passed the Complete Streets law requiring all the counties in Hawaii to act to fix our crosswalk problems throughout Hawaii.
The City and County of Honolulu waited three years.
Then, in 2012, The City Council enacted the Complete Streets Ordinance for the City. This law required the City to address pedestrian safety for any new roadway construction or when repairing or maintaining any roadway.
Again, despite these laws, the City did little or nothing to act.
Four years later, in 2016, The City finally adopted Complete Streets guidelines for use by the City.
Have the Complete Street guidelines been followed by The City?
Here we are ten years later and The City is once again acting as if there is no clear link to Honolulu’s high rate of pedestrian deaths this year. The path flows directly to the City & County of Honolulu and its refusal to make our crosswalks safe. Instead, the City is content to focus the blame on pedestrians and drivers. In reality, pedestrians and drivers can both be victims of the City’s dangerously placed and marked crosswalks.
Within the last twelve months, the City & County of Honolulu paid $11.4 Million for a man who was paralyzed in one of the City’s dangerous crosswalk. The City has yet to fix the crosswalk. Recently, the City also paid $7.5 Million for a 17-year-old student who was severely brain damaged in another one of the City’s unsafe crosswalks. In that case, the City admitted there were multiple orders to fix the unsafe crosswalk but the City departments responsible for doing so simply didn’t do their job. Leavitt, Yamane & Soldner represented the injured pedestrians in both cases.