May 17, 2023

Mayor Mark Freda Joins National Group to Improve Pedestrian Safety

By Wendy Greenberg

Princeton is well-known for being a walkable community. But vehicles are everywhere, and sometimes the two don’t mix well. How does a municipal government balance the two for its residents?

Princeton Mayor Mark Freda may soon have some answers as he joins a national conversation that will grapple with making improvements on dangerous streets, and developing implementation plans for long-term changes.

Freda is one of nine mayors nationally to be selected for the inaugural cohort of the Mayors Institute on Pedestrian Safety, a collaboration between the Mayors Innovation Project, AARP, and Smart Growth America. The Mayors Institute on Pedestrian Safety supports mayors in creating communities “that are safe, vibrant, and equitable for people of all ages,” according to its website. The group will provide mayors an opportunity to learn from experts and their peers “about how to create safer streets and better protect their most vulnerable neighbors.”

“I think the challenges are finding the correct balance between pedestrians, bicycles, and vehicles,” said Freda.  “We have been trying for a while to bring more focus to pedestrians and bicycles over vehicles; but doing that safely is a challenge in many locations.”

The solutions may be geared to different situations, he said. “For our business district, many customers are from out of town, so the solution there is likely to be different from the solution for customers from town. There is a mind and cultural shift that we need to help move along, away from vehicles.”

Princeton has been the site of several pedestrian accidents in the last few years. According to the Princeton Police Department Chief’s Monthly Report for December 2022, motor vehicle accidents involving pedestrians numbered four in December 2022. By comparison, in 2019 there was one in December and also one in 2021. (There is no record for the year 2020.) In 2022, the report shows, there were 56 summonses for failure to yield to pedestrian in crosswalks. One fatal accident, and nine with injuries, are noted in the report.

Communities across the United States are facing record numbers of pedestrian fatalities, according to the Mayor’s Innovation Project. Estimates from the Governors Highway Safety Association show that 7,485 pedestrians were struck and killed in 2021, the highest number in 40 years and one of the biggest single-year jumps in decades. These deaths and serious injuries disproportionately impact Black and brown communities, lower-income neighborhoods, and older adults, according to the project.

Freda hopes to look at alternatives. “We need to look at a well-thought-out and effective town-wide transit system — how to improve pedestrian safety at intersections and along many narrow sidewalks. And how do we provide enough safe biking opportunities for people to move all around town?”

Participating mayors will receive training and resources from experts in the field to make immediate safety improvements and gain support to develop plans for longer-term, systemic changes. Over the next six months, cohort members will meet virtually with national experts and each other to share experiences and identify solutions to their pedestrian safety challenges.
The mayors selected for this year’s cohort include the mayors of Emeryville, Calif., Knoxville, Tenn., Lancaster, Pa., Madison, Wis., Rochester, N.Y., St. Louis, Mo., and Stamford, Conn.

Freda is pleased to have been selected. “I would think my selection was based on a number of factors,” he said. “Some would be what we have done already.  Also, the fact that we are very interested in doing more, which means what we learn will most likely be used in a timely manner.”