Between 2006 and 2013, 130 pedestrians hit on the South Side
August 10, 2014 12:00 AM
Mckenzin Sprague, 16, left, and Darah Appling, 18, both of Erie, sing outside of the farmer's market at 18th and East Carson Streets.
By Emma Brown / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
At first glance, there's nothing special about the intersection of 18th and East Carson streets on the South Side. It doesn’t have a bridge or a tunnel. It has a Bruegger’s Bagels and a bank.
Nonetheless, this simple four-way intersection has seen more vehicles hit pedestrians than any other in Pittsburgh, an ignominious honor amid a stretch of street notorious for heavy traffic.
Salome Gutierrez, a University of Pittsburgh linguistics professor, took her final steps here in 2009. Hers is one of 13 pedestrian deaths between 2006 and 2013. The neighborhood has seen more than 130 crashes in total.
“I haven’t been hit, but I've been brushed back a couple times,” said Francis John Joseph Jablonski III, 62, who has lived on the South Side for decades. “You don’t do a damn thing wrong. You're just crossing the street.”
Carson Street is a rarity in Pittsburgh -- a street that never sleeps. By day, it is a bustling business district with a distinctly older population. At night, it transforms into the city's most vibrant and youthful bar scene.
That 24-hour metabolism means traffic engineers must plan for not one constituency, but many -- seniors, students and saloon-goers, among others.
“South Side becomes a completely different issue at night, with impaired drivers and people who don't use the sidewalks,” Pittsburgh police Commander Scott Schubert said.
This raucous stretch of Carson sees far more collisions on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, when nightlife hits its peak. That three-day span accounts for 70 percent of all crashes.
Here, more than half of all pedestrian crashes take place after dark. Citywide, most crashes happen during the day.
Mr. Jablonski can back that up.
“We always see these kids get off the buses at night, stagger across the street,” he said. “It’s a joke.”
Local groups know there is a problem. Many intersections don't have pedestrian crossing signals, said Candice Gonzalez, executive director of the South Side Chamber of Commerce. And crosswalk lines wear off very quickly under Carson Street’s heavy traffic.
In response, her organization is looking to expand its successful $10 valet parking program to every Friday and Saturday, cutting down the number of drivers circling the block while looking for street spaces.
Indeed, Ms. Gonzalez wants to put the valet stand right at 18th and Carson.
“We realize there's a lot of stuff happening simultaneously here on Carson Street,” she said.
Abdesalam Soudi, 43, of Canonsburg, worked closely with Ms. Gutierrez at Pitt’s linguistics department. In the five years since her death, he has come to see intersections as places where the best and worst parts of humanity are displayed. The corner of 18th and East Carson streets, he said, “legitimizes” recklessness.
“Intersections are almost like doors,” said Mr. Soudi. “People should show consideration for each other.”
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