Although parents often remind their children to look both ways before crossing the street, Tyler police add another important piece of advice: cross at intersections and use crosswalks.
“Walk a little further to an intersection where you do have the right of way and drivers are required to stop for you,” Tyler Police Information Officer Andy Erbaugh said. “Just don’t take that chance to cross a road where there’s no intersection.”
Heeding that advice could save a life.
Pedestrian deaths accounted for one in five traffic fatalities in the state, according to a Texas Department of Transportation report, which also showed an overall average of 11 traffic-related fatalities per day in 2021.
That same year in Tyler, 62 traffic incidents involving pedestrians occurred within the city limits. Seven of those incidents, or 11%, resulted in a death, according to data provided to The Tyler Loop through a public information request.
Those deaths — one in April and the other in November — included two Tyler men on the same stretch of East Troup Highway.
In separate incidents, 30-year-old Timothy Nickelbur and Malcom Johnson, 35, died after being struck by a vehicle. Neither pedestrian had used a crosswalk, according to police reports.
The data for 2021 show a nearly even split of pedestrian incidents reported north and south of Front Street. Although slightly more incidents occurred in the southern portion of the city, the largest cluster occurred in the area around North Beckham Avenue, just north of East Erwin Street and east of Spring Street.
Of the five incidents reported on Beckham Avenue, two occurred within the city’s hospital district, according to the data.
Addresses at two of the city’s business roadways — Broadway Avenue and Loop 323 — accounted for about one-third of pedestrian incidents last year.
Incidents recorded on the northeast loop spread out from the intersection of State Highway 110 to CR 485. Although only one incident occurred on North Broadway, at least five occurred on West Gentry Parkway, which feeds into the north loop.
In October, 81-year-old Lilly Collins of Tyler died after being struck while crossing Gentry Parkway at the Englewood Avenue intersection.
During 2021, South Broadway recorded pedestrian incidents with a majority occurring between the 4000 and 9000 blocks, stretching from the intersection of South Loop 323 down to Cumberland Avenue.
Data also showed the pedestrian incidents in 2021:
- Split evenly between day and nighttime occurrences, with 45% happening during the day and 42% at night. About 3% occurred at dawn or dusk.
- The highest number of incidents — 11 — occurred in October.
- Six times during the year, two incidents were reported on the same day.
- More than half of the incidents (34/62) happened during the last five months of the year.
Erbaugh said a majority of pedestrian incidents occur on streets with higher speed limits that do not necessarily have crosswalks. In other areas, crosswalks may be farther apart, creating a hassle for pedestrians to get across, he said.
“Tyler is like any city with major thoroughfares where businesses are mixed with residences and they grow exponentially,” Erbaugh said. “The first one to do that in Tyler … was Broadway… that just happened to be how the city expanded.”
Most of Tyler’s growing retail and office space as well as numerous restaurants and retail shops are located in this area, as reflected in the city’s Tyler 1st Comprehensive Plan.
“The state of Texas keeps an inventory of the top 100 most congested thoroughfares in the state, and South Broadway has been in that top 100 for many, many years,” Michael Howell, the manager of the Tyler Metropolitan Planning Organization said.
Although a higher volume of events occurred in this area, Tyler traffic engineer Cameron Williams said he doesn’t necessarily look at South Broadway as a “hotspot” for pedestrian incidents.
Tyler recorded its first pedestrian fatality this year in February. An 18-year-old woman is accused of causing the death of 30-year-old Kelsey Hise who was struck on North Broadway just north of Gentry Parkway.
Addressing pedestrian safety issues
City officials plan to improve conditions for pedestrians and cyclists throughout Tyler. Currently, there is one project in the works at the Robert E. Lee Drive and South Broadway intersection.
The project is funded by the state’s Highway Safety Improvement Programs, Williams said.
That particular intersection is an existing span wire traffic signal, meaning it does not have poles with mast arms and does not have pedestrian signals. It was identified as a necessary project so officials could add those safety elements.
“At that location, we are constructing that traffic signal and adding pedestrian traffic signal push buttons and crosswalks that aren’t there today,” he said.
The safety improvements come as MPO officials work to encourage more people to use their own power to navigate the city through the Active Tyler Plan.
Howell said the city works with the Tyler Bicycle Club and has had partnerships with Net Health to promote the benefits of having a more active community. According to the written plan, Active Tyler’s goal is to “encourage active transportation as a mode” and “to create a vision for a network of bicycling and walking facilities.”
The long-term plan outlines options for new facilities such as sidewalks, neighborhood traffic circles and bike lanes.
“We also heard from the Tyler Economic Development Council about new businesses that are looking at coming to Tyler and wanting to see the types of amenities, the quality of life amenities, having trails and bike routes,” he said. “We were getting it from a bunch of different sources why this is really important for the community to see these types of projects to be expanded throughout the region.”
Officials say pedestrians and motorists can co-exist safely if both take personal responsibility.
“Whether you’re a cyclist, a pedestrian or a vehicle driver, you all have a responsibility to look out for each other,” Williams said.
Kelly Camera is a freelance writer graduated with her B.S. in Journalism from Tennessee Tech University. After graduation, she moved to Florida to pursue a career of making magic at Walt Disney World. She recently graduated with her M.S. in Organizational Leadership and continues to reside in Florida with her fur baby Cleo.
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