Demands Grow for Pedestrian Zones After Fatality

Illustration of barriers for Akard Street
Illustration of barriers for Akard Street | Image by Change.org

The safety of walking the streets in Downtown Dallas is being called into question by residents following a fatal hit-and-run accident last summer that led to a petition to close Akard Street to traffic.

The petition was initiated by Akard Street resident Hexel Colorado on February 27 and has received over 1,000 signatures.

According to the petition, Lisa Jordan was killed in a hit-and-run accident on August 6, 2023, despite the fact that she was walking “correctly,” meaning where and when she was supposed to be walking.

“Conflicts with cars are a daily threat to pedestrians’ safety in Dallas. … It’s useless to wish people would ‘just drive better’ in Dallas,” the petition reads. “The best way to prevent crashes is by reducing the opportunities for conflict between pedestrians and cars in the first place. The easiest way to do that is by blocking car access to spaces where car access is unnecessary.”

The idea has also met with some positive responses from City leaders, though the process of closing the street is more complex than simply erecting barricades, according to Gus Khankarli, director of transportation for the City of Dallas.

“Generally speaking, we have to go through the due diligence process, and the due diligence will include our partners at Downtown Dallas Inc., and then you have the input also from the property owners, from emergency personnel like the Dallas Fire Rescue and Dallas Police Department,” Khankarli told The Dallas Morning News. “And then, of course, you have to check into what ordinances are applicable or could be limiting constraints and so on. These are all factors that will have to go into the process as we look into whether something is viable.”

The numbers in Dallas are troubling, particularly when compared to similarly-sized cities. Even though just 2% of residents walk to work, pedestrian fatalities make up 30% of all traffic deaths. No other city in the nation the size of Dallas has such poor numbers, according to the City’s Vision Zero Action Plan. Dallas is attempting to reduce traffic fatalities by half before 2030 by redesigning roads, signage, and other steps as outlined in the plan.

“The City has long acknowledged that Akard has an opportunity to be rethought to be more functional, to be safer and more pedestrian-oriented,” said Evan Sheets, vice president of planning and policy at Downtown Dallas Inc., per DMN.

“What that solution is requires rolling up sleeves and really meeting with folks that use it for access to their hotels or access to the restaurants, folks who use it as program space or just to get to or from work. And then [figuring out] how to balance all those needs and come up with a solution that meets the overall goal of a vibrant, attractive, safe public space.”

Closing off traffic access to create pedestrian malls has been a tactic other cities have used to create a more walkable environment. Images on Colorado’s petition show a vibrant pedestrian mall in Coral Gables, Florida, that was once a street. The petition says that creating a pedestrian-only zone could allow businesses on Akard to have outdoor space in addition to improving pedestrian safety.

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