New Mexico has highest rate of pedestrian deaths for fifth year in a row

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — For the fifth year in a row, New Mexico has had the highest rate of pedestrian deaths in the U.S., prompting federal action.

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich is cosponsoring the “Complete Streets Act.” It would use a chunk of federal dollars to expand bike and pedestrian lanes and ensure new roads are more accessible to everyone, whether traveling in a car or not.

“As we’re spending our federal highway funds, we’re really planning for the complete community. Not just the cars and trucks, but the cars and trucks and buses, bicycles and pedestrians,” Sen. Heinrich said. “Make sure that our kids can walk and bike to school, but also reduce those fatalities.”

Sen. Heinrich joined other members of the New Mexico Congressional Delegation to secure federal funds for two problem areas in the Albuquerque metro:

1. Coors and Gun Club

What you often don’t see in the area are sidewalks and bike paths. Lawmakers earmarked $11 million in federal funding for just that.

2. A mile-long stretch of the proposed Rail Trail

The Rail Trail will run through downtown Albuquerque, making it easier for bicyclists and pedestrians to get from Point A to Point B to avoid roads not designed for them.

“Cyclists are having to bike in the roads open alongside the cars that are moving 35-40 mph or bike on the sidewalks,” Albuquerque bicyclist Patrick Martin said.

“Those roads are particularly unsafe, probably because of the history. They were built as highways before the interstates came through,” said Dr. Nicholas Ferenchak.

Dr. Ferenchak is the director of the Center for Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety at UNM. He and his team go behind the lens to simulate what happens behind the wheel.

“We can actually model that up in virtual reality. Run people through the simulators, as drivers or pedestrians or bicyclists, and see, ‘Do they understand this? Does it cause unsafe behavior? Or is this actually going to work when we implement it out on the roadways?'” Dr. Ferenchak said.