Pedestrian death raises questions about Harrisburg’s Vision Zero plan

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — A fatal pedestrian crash on State Street raises questions about Harrisburg’s Vision Zero Plan, a project to end all road deaths by 2030. Making State Street safer is the next project on the city’s list, but not everyone agrees on how to do it.

In 2022, the city scrapped an earlier plan for State Street after public criticism. The city submitted a new plan to PennDOT this summer and hopes to begin construction in the spring of 2023, but not everyone agrees.

“How many people are allowed to die every year trying to cross this street?” said Ross Willard of Recycle Bicycle.

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Willard doesn’t think State Street is safe for pedestrians — or cyclists.

“You have to run seven lanes,” he said.

For him, the recent fatal accident brings him home. On Tuesday, Jan. 24, police said multiple cars ran over a woman in State near North 16th Street. She was taken to hospital but died of her injuries.

“Our biggest complaint is that we really haven’t solved the pedestrian issue,” Willard said.

The City of Harrisburg is trying to put State Street at the top of its list for upcoming Vision Zero projects.

“Front Street is finished; Second Street, a great project is complete,” said communications director Matt Maisel.

The city had a plan in 2022, which included a protected bike path and fewer traffic lanes for people to cross, but neighbors opposed it because it would limit parking. The city listened.

“For too long they’ve had administrations that didn’t listen to their concerns,” Maisel said of the area’s neighbors.

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Maisel said the new plan, which no longer has a bike lane and does not reduce traffic lanes, still addresses pedestrian safety.

“More crosswalks, better lit crosswalks…better timed stop lights, longer walk signals,” he listed.

Willard disagrees.

“Pedestrians are still forced to cross the (road) and play Frogger,” he said.

He wants the city to do more.

“We would like to see narrow lanes, protected bicycles, pedestrian crossings if necessary,” he said. He said he would also like to see islands in the center of the street.

Maisel said the city needs to balance everyone’s concerns. Pedestrians are definitely a priority.

“There are more cyclists these days, people are trying to be eco-friendly, more people are walking these days for the same reason,” Maisel said.

However, Maisel said the city also has to deal with the fact that many people commute to Harrisburg daily.

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“It would be remiss of us not to have roads capable of accommodating this increase in traffic,” he said.

The city makes final revisions to its State Street plan before submitting it to contractors and getting a price tag, which the city council must then approve. Maisel said they still want to add a bike lane and reduce traffic lanes to protect pedestrians, but that could take a few years.