FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – In just 24 days seven pedestrians have been hit and killed by vehicles.
That’s 25% of all 28 fatalities last year and nearly a third of the 22 in 2021.
“It’s been an incredibly fast start to the year, as far as auto-peds,” said Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama.
“It’s very concerning to me as police chief, it’s very continuing to the mayor, the leader of the city, and we’ve already had some robust conversations as far as, ‘What can we do to prevent these moving forward?'”, said Chief Balderrama.
We reached out to the mayor’s office but they were not able to comment on the deadly trend.
Chief Balderrama told me he, the mayor, and Fresno Public Works continue to look into what can be done to make walking and biking safer in the city.
“Funding is limited but we’ve got to find ways to add bike lanes, add crosswalks, add lighting. I think all these things will help, along with education. Making our community aware of this issue we’re facing right now and what we can do to help,” he said.
A way residents can help is to wear bright-colored or reflective clothing if they are out at night.
A population that may not have access to those is the transient or unhoused population.
The Chief said of those killed so far this year, three or four have been transient or unhoused individuals, which make up roughly half the total amount.
The exact number of vehicle versus pedestrian accidents so far this year is not available currently.
Balderrama talked about another obstacle officers face: California’s new Freedom to Walk Act has allowed people to legally cross or jaywalk outside of intersections.
“We cannot give a citation for that unless basically a person is doing so deliberately.. running out in front of cars, then we can take enforcement action. So does that help? No. Does that limit our ability to be proactive? And, you know, possibly reduce the number of auto peds? It limits us. It certainly does,” he said.
Advocates like Joe Martinez are all for any additional resources to help keep pedestrians safe.
In 2013, his 21-year-old son Paul went to cross the street when he was struck by a driver going 54 in a 40… Paul later died at a local hospital.
Now Joe fights to avoid any more unnecessary deaths.
“We should have zero deaths in the city of Fresno. Seven is seven too many because behind every person there’s a family left behind… every death is 100% preventable,” said Joe Martinez, an advocate for Families for Safe Streets.
Martinez has worked around the country, city, and state, where he and other advocates pushed Fresno leaders to apply for a Safe Streets and Roads grant.
It would provide $1 million to the city for programs to limit pedestrian deaths to zero.
“If the city is serious about prevention, is serious about ending traffic deaths, and serious about reaching zero, it has got to put the resources in place,” he said.
Martinez told us the city should know whether or not it will get the grant money in the days ahead, for what would be a first step in the process to set up its own program.
And on smartgrowthamerica.org, Fresno is currently ranked the 10th most dangerous city in the country for pedestrian safety.