Houston crash left 3 pedestrians injured, points to challenges of walking in city

Three women were seriously injured, early Friday morning, when they darted across Westheimer after leaving a nearby restaurant. It's the latest demonstration of how difficult it can be to safely get around Houston on foot.

It happened just after 2 a.m., between Fountainview and Greenridge. Witnesses told police the victims had just left a nearby restaurant when they tried to run across Westheimer and were all struck by a car.

"In this section of the roadway, there is no crosswalk," says Houston Police Sergeant James Seymour, "You would, actually, have to go much further down a couple blocks to get to one."

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The three women were taken to the hospital, one in critical condition. Police believe all will recover, while the driver was not cited for the crash with the unexpected jaywalkers.

Houston transportation advocates say they're not surprised it happened. "The reality is that Houston's infrastructure, for the last 50-plus years, has been built to move vehicles at all costs," says Gabe Cazares, executive director for LINK-Houston, which advocates for transportation options that don't require a car.

In a city of 'drivers', Cazares says vulnerable users, like pedestrians, can be challenged when trying to get around. In areas where sidewalks are non-existent, or broken, pedestrians may have to dodge traffic to get where they're going. In other areas, the distance between traffic lights and crosswalks can be a time-consuming roadblock in front of pedestrians trying to cross the road.

It all takes a toll. TxDOT says, in 2021, there were more than 5,300 crashes involving pedestrians in Texas, leaving 841 people dead. That was a 15% increase over 2021. Advocates say those numbers will only come down with a commitment to improvement.

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"We're talking about how the roadway and the public right-of-way, more specifically, belong to all of us," says Cazares, "Particularly those of us who travel outside a vehicle; but the infrastructure's just not there yet."

In early August, the city of Houston released its Vision Zero report for 2022, which is an initiative to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries by the end of the decade. The report showed modest improvements but still left nearly 2,000 people dead or injured in those wrecks.

LINK-Houston will hold a mayoral forum in September to ask candidates what they plan to do to improve those numbers.