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Council aims to step up street safety with 'Pedestrian Advisory Committee'

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Photo: Video by kgun9.com

Council aims to step up street safety with 'Pedestrian Advisory Committee'

CREATED Feb 12, 2013 - UPDATED: Feb 13, 2013

Reporter: Maggie Vespa
Web Producer: Mekita Rivas

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - The numbers are staggering.

Four deaths in two months.

Two of them, just in the last four days.

The most recent occurred shortly before 7 p.m. Saturday near Fort Lowell and Castro.

And what do these victims have in common?

They were all hit by cars, while crossing Tucson city streets.

So far, authorities have put the blame for pedestrian deaths on drivers and walkers themselves, but Tuesday night city officials also stepped in.

Following four deaths in two months, the figures were front and center.

"The urgency for this sort of oversight committee cannot be greater, with the deaths of two pedestrians in Tucson in the past four days,” said one speaker.

“…in a city that has had four pedestrian fatalities already in 2013,” said another.

And it's those figures, that are forcing council members to take steps toward safer streets.

Step one: forming a 'Pedestrian Advisory Committee' to examine what is putting walkers at risk.

"There are gaps in our sidewalks,” said councilman Paul Cunningham.  “There are places where there is no actual shoulder to walk, and so this helps us identify those areas."

Officials say the committee will also search for better ways to fund construction on the city's worst streets.

Members of 'Living Streets Alliance', say the move is a long time coming, in a city where nearly a third of its residents are unable to drive.

"Sometimes it's a chicken and egg thing, where the more you get people out walking, the more they start to demand better conditions,” said executive director Emily Yetman.

While they are pleased with the progress, they hope change comes quickly, especially since officials know all too well the cost of dragging their feet.

9OYS reporter Maggie Vespa asked, “What is that like, knowing the mission that you have, and seeing these fatalities start to rack up in the way that they have?”

Yetman responded, “It's really sad for us to see that it's going to take people getting killed in order to be proactive and making change."

Members of ‘Living Streets Alliance’ say they will work with the city to help improve safety on Tucson’s streets.

Meanwhile, authorities stress common sense advice to drivers and pedestrians.

If you're out walking, wear bright colors, avoid dark streets, and always use cross walks.

If you're driving, take those extra few seconds to scan an intersection.

It’s a small step, they say, that could save a life.