Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Safe Place

Is Portland a safe place to walk, bike, run, etc?

For the most part (I'm looking at you, Franklin Arterial!) the peninsula is home to pretty calm streets that enable and encourage pedestrian usage year-round.

At the Maine Personal Injury Law Blog (run by local firm Joe Bornstein) they recently had a post about an update to pedestrian safety law.

Here's a snippet:

Pedestrians, by law, now have more room to run and walk when on the road. A new law protecting pedestrian safety states that drivers must leave at least three feet of clearance between their vehicle and a pedestrian when passing. The decree is a continuation of a similar law for passing bicyclists.

The new law went into effect on September 12th and is being considered by many as an awareness act. Known as “An Act To Improve the Health of Maine Citizens and Safety of Pedestrians," drivers must now be more cautious of their actions around pedestrians or they will be fined.

I applaud the effort, and although we all know that traffic calming and common sense are more effective tools to enhance pedestrian safety in Maine, the law certainly means well. Fortunately, most roads in downtown Portland have adequate sidewalks, and this law seems to be more focused on pedestrians utilizing roads without sidewalks.

And back to the issue of safety in Portland, I rarely hear of fatal incidents involving pedestrian/bicycles. Most of the areas that pedestrians have access to in downtown Portland are low(er) speed areas, compared to the high-speed roads that connect the suburbs and rural areas that are purely designed for automobile use. In turn you rarely have incidents on the higher speed roads outside of cities and town centers because they are rarely used by pedestrians since nothing is within reasonable walking distance.

In a broader sense, the streets of Portland are relatively safe as far as crime goes. Despite the occasional crime spree, most people would report experiencing few serious problems. Perhaps more on this topic in the future...

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