Pedestrian safety highlighted in Alaska’s darkest months

Bean's Cafe at Brother Francis Shelter in Anchorage.
Bean’s Cafe at Brother Francis Shelter in Anchorage. (Staff photo)

As the winter solstice approaches and daylight hours are short in Alaska, public safety, medical groups and other Alaska businesses are calling attention to pedestrian safety.

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Marcia Howell, executive director of the Alaska Injury Prevention Center, said there are lots of things pedestrians can do to be safer while walking along Alaska’s roadways — including increasing visibility with bright-colored clothing, reflective tape and blinking lights.

“Things like crossing at crosswalks, but not trusting drivers to necessarily stop for you,” Howell said. “So just like for cyclists, we say make eye contact with a driver before you cross an intersection, if there’s maybe somebody at a stop light or a stop sign.”

Howell said the responsibility for safety is shared by drivers as well, especially in light of a recent accident near Beans Cafe, a homeless shelter in Anchorage, that sent four people to the hospital.

“There’s new signs up all around town where some of the high-risk areas are for both cyclists and pedestrians where there have been crashes in the recent past,” Howell said. “And, you know, paying attention to those signs and really when you’re in one of those areas, be on the lookout for people walking and maybe not always making the best choices.”

Howell said in 2014 about 20 percent of traffic fatalities in Alaska involved pedestrians, which is up 29 percent since 2005.

To address the needs of its clients in Anchorage, Beans Cafe is asking for donations of high-visibility gear, ranging from reflective tape and safety lights, to safety vests and jackets.