FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: julie (at) bikewalknebraska (dot) org
This has been a tragic week for Nebraska on our roads. The deaths of 10 year old Abby Whitford, who was walking across the street in Papillion and 11 year old Jaycoby Estrada, who was biking across the street in Blair, are heartbreaking. Our most sincere condolences go out to the families, classmates and communities of friends of Abby and Jaycoby. The shock of these fatalities was compounded for us as we monitored the news of two additional children that were hit by people driving cars this week as they walked to school (an 8th grader in Gretna) and after school (a 7 year old in Plattsmouth). Thankfully these children were not seriously injured.
As an organization whose mission is to cultivate safe and accessible active transportation in Nebraska, we take the fact finding process of crashes involving people biking and walking very seriously. We are currently analyzing a variety of data to identify trends and potential solutions. Although we have not completed our analysis, we feel an urgency to issue the following three point call to action in light of the severity of this week’s tragedies.
Issue: We visited the intersection where Jaycoby Estrada was killed and found the amount of truck traffic to be staggering. (See the video footage of our experience crossing this intersection.)
Action: We are calling on Governor Ricketts and our congressional delegation to investigate ways the truck bypass project proposed for Blair can be fast tracked. We have contacted all of these offices with this request and encourage others to do the same.
Issue: Nebraska communities struggle with safety issues related to state highways that become local streets within city limit boundaries. We’ve seen in places like Fairbury where students walking to and from school have to count on people driving to navigate a confusing intersection in order to safely cross Highway 15 (locally K Street). In Atkinson, residents tell us they have been trying in vain to get a safer crossing at Highway 20 and Madison Street to get kids to the swimming pool, baseball fields and community center. Abby Whitford and Jaycoby Estrada lost their lives on state highways that also serve as local streets.
Action: We are actively working with the Nebraska Department of Transportation on issues related to biking and walking, and have been told internal Complete Streets policy language is being drafted. This is a positive step. In the meantime, we are calling on the NDOT to review all projects currently in the 5 year plan involving a state highway located within city limit boundaries or urban extraterritorial jurisdictions to ensure the safety of people biking and walking is accounted for in the design.
Issue: It shouldn’t take the heartbreaking deaths of children to remind us to drive safely. Operating a motor vehicle is a serious responsibility; it requires drivers to be attentive to the environment around them at all times.
Action: We are calling on Nebraskans to do better. People biking and walking have the right of way in intersections; look twice before you turn. Know the speed limit and follow it. Keep your phone out of your hands.