INDIANAPOLIS — Roughly every 81 minutes a pedestrian is killed by a driver in the United States. That statistic alone is enough to raise a few eyebrows, but when you consider that in 2021 that translated into 7,485 people never making it home, the scope of the problem comes into view. 

Like all others, the Hoosier state is not immune to these problems and that’s now forcing officials, advocates, and everyday Hoosiers to take a hard look and ask, “what can be done to fix our unsafe streets?” 

In 2020, the latest year where comprehensive data is available, Central Indiana saw the number of pedestrian deaths nearly double. Deadly crashes involving bicyclists also increased.

“Some people call them accidents; they view them as inevitabilities. But the reality is there are things that we can do in our communities to improve the safety of everyone,” Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Organization senior planner Andrea Miller said.  

Miller and the IMPO said improvements need to happen soon and outline the literal concrete changes they believe will help in their 78-page Safe Streets and Roads for All Safety Action Plan.

 “These will take time and money, but we need to make the effort now,” Miller said. 

Advocates like Connie Szabo Schmucker agree changes need to happen now. Schmucker is the advocacy director for Bicycle Garage Indy. Last October, her friend and long-time Bicycle Garage employee Frank Radaker was hit and killed at 86th street and the Monon on Indy’s Northside.

Since then, Schmucker has joined those in the cycling community calling for change, including more protection for cyclists on the Monon. 

“Budgets reflect values and right now there is a bicycle and pedestrian safety crisis. And we need to address it,” she said.  

Within their plan, the IMPO identified what they called their “High Injury Network.” It’s an area with nearly 60 corridors, that while making up just 10% of local roadways, account for 29% of serious and fatal crashes. 

The hope is to help transform these roadways using grant dollars from the federal Safe Streets and Roads for All program which will dispense $5 billion over five years to fund regional, local, and tribal initiatives.

“We all at some point, when we are driving, or walking make a mistake. And that mistake should not mean that we are someone else around us ends up dying. And people are dying,” she said.  

The IMPO lists design changes like narrower lanes, more traffic lights, signage, and buffer zones that keep the public further away from cars can help reduce the number of incidents. 

Applications for safe streets and roads for all funding have been completed by a number of cities and communities across Indiana. The federal government is expected to announce what initial projects will receive funding in January.