Complete Streets Engineer and Intern Run Over on a Columbus Sidewalk

Police responding to the crash scene. Image: MyFox28Columbus
Police responding to the crash scene. Image: MyFox28Columbus

In an extraordinarily sad irony, the engineer in charge of Columbus, Ohio’s complete streets program has been gravely injured in a car crash. His 21-year-old intern was killed.

The pair were walking in downtown Columbus Friday when, according to witnesses, Terrance Trent, 61, ran a red light and smashed his pickup truck into a school bus carrying special needs students. That bus was forced onto the sidewalk, where the city’s chief mobility engineer, Bill Lewis, and his intern, Ohio State student Stephanie Fibelkorn, were standing, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

Lewis was listed in serious condition Saturday. It was the last day of Fibelkorn’s four-month internship with the city. She was studying to be a traffic engineer. None of the schoolchildren were injured, but the bus driver was hospitalized.

Columbus’ regional planning agency adopted a complete streets policy in 2010. Lewis leads the planning and execution of elements of the policy at the city level, including bike and pedestrian safety, traffic calming, and community mobility planning.

The carnage happened shortly after state lawmakers voted to essentially outlaw red light cameras, which had been shown to reduce crash rates by 22 percent at intersections. Apparently, Ohioans are more willing to tolerate tragedy than traffic tickets.

  • DC mongrel

    disgraceful. Very sad to hear of these injuries. Complete streets is a great program, but american drivers need to be better educated- and punished for bad driving. Until then it is a game of Russian roulette out on the roads.

  • Glenn Scott

    Very sad.

  • SFnative74

    I cannot understand why anyone would outlaw red light cameras that are properly designed and managed. You might as well outlaw traffic enforcement.

  • dat

    I agree with you however many cities and towns were gaming them to increase revenue. For example making the yellow light much, much shorter than the norm which was causing drivers to brake really hard and caused a big upswing in rear end collisions. There were a lot of issues with bogus tickets being issued too.

  • c2check

    Then fix the broken system, don’t ditch them all together. What a foolish move.

  • Don’t forget what’s been given as a reason to drop the program in some cities in CA: the company operating the cameras was in Australia and took a 50% split.

  • Eric McClure

    Proof?

  • yugioh_mishima

    Who cares if they are using them as cash registers, god knows our cities need the revenue! Obey the law and you won’t be fined! If they need to brake really hard they were likely driving too fast in the first place!

  • yugioh_mishima

    Absolutely terrible. Condolences to the affected families.

  • neroden

    Is there any way this tragedy can be used to push to make Columbus’s streets safer, so that this does not happen again? Because it’s obviously time to implement much more extreme traffic calming than has been implemented so far.

  • Andres Dee

    I’ll dispense with my usual sarcastic recitation of all the excuses auto-apologists throw out that blame their victims (y’know, “the ped was jaywalking, or distracted, or texting, or on the phone, or wearing dark clothes, or didn’t look both ways).

    Sad, really sad.

  • The thing about yellow lights, is that the duration is set by fed standards. Which means 1) The claim is false or 2)With a stop watch, you could get every ticket invalidated and force the city to fix the problem or be liable for every colission

  • In some states it’s nearly impossible to properly manage red light camera programs. The key to a good system is consistency: run a red light, get a ticket. In DC, that’s the plan: blanket the city in cameras, but actually lower the ticket price. It undermines the argument these are cash registers AND changes behavior. That’s impossible in CA, where ticket fine is set at a state level and, for red-light cameras, are over $400.

    I’m not sure what’s the deal with Ohio, but something must be done. So, so tragic.

  • This ticks every box in the “exaggerated examples of why road safety is important” while actually being a real event. Sad.

  • SFnative74

    That’s what I’m sayin.Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Run the program correctly and it will improve safety and punish the bad guys in the process. If some town is negligent in managing a red light camera program, fire the city manager and fix the program.

  • ? We lost Donald Appleyard, a pioneer of livable streets, when he was hit by a motorist while trying to make Athens safer from cars.

  • The neverending “revenoo enhancement” talking point doesn’t actually say anything. Speeding and red light-running inflict a cost, nothing wrong with recovering some of that cost.

  • Sending our cash out of state (or overseas) is a concern, but it’s not like we don’t have local technical know-how to implement such a system.

  • BWTrainer

    There are several deals with Ohio:

    1. Our legislature is averse to facts
    2. It’s our God-given right to drive everywhere as fast as possible without paying for it, whether it’s tickets or taxes
    3. Making government so small you can drown it in a bathtub seems to be our MO (except for abortion restrictions, we love those)
    4. Roughly 2% of our legislators (just a guess, but it’s definitely a small %) actually live in cities; the rest couldn’t care less what goes on in them
    4b. Because they don’t live in the cities, all they care about is getting in and out of them as fast as possible when they do go (see point 2)
    5. City residents are largely Democrats, with the added bonus of encompassing most of our minority population. If they’re in favor of something, our legislators are against it

    The state in this case is just following on the heels of local jurisdictions. In November’s elections, Cuyahoga County (home of Cleveland) voters passed an initiative to remove the existing cameras. What these people all have in common is that none of them actually live in Cleveland but they do work there. See 4b.

  • Yep. I’m surprised they took a break from dreaming up insane dubiously legal abortion restrictions long enough to actually pass something. Of course, it’s a backwards, embarrassing disaster.

  • Anne A

    My sympathy to the families, friends and colleagues of the victims. I agree with the previous comments. This incident speaks volumes about the need to pursue measures to make our roads safer.

  • Oh man. Here’s another sad coincidence. Steve Wartenberg, the Columbus Dispatch business reporter and bike blogger was gravely injured while biking by a drunk driver last year. He was my journalism professor really briefly at OSU. http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2013/11/03/Dispatch-reporter-critical-after-bike-hit-by-car.html

  • Brad McLaughlin

    No amount of red cameras would have helped here. Idiot driver was running on 1 rim, very VERY fast for that street…claims his woman was abusing him as he drove, he was “just trying to get to the police” *sigh*

  • hello

    Obviously, no charges will be filed – wait, he will get a ticket for running the red light…that’s all.

  • Pete

    From what I understand the problem is that you have to prove who is driving the car at the time, and there are lawyers who’ve made a business at fighting these tickets. In South SF there were also technical difficulties that plagued the installations. Lastly, there are automotive advocacy groups that have been fighting them for years.

    http://abc7news.com/archive/9008636/
    http://www.motorists.org/red-light-cameras/objections

    Back OT, my heart goes out to the families of these victims. Here in the south bay area (particularly San Jose) we have seen a dramatic jump in pedestrian fatalities, and I can’t help but think about this when I see that new Volvo commercial that shows a dashboard with smartphone apps running on it (while the woman driving casually glances over from time to time). Speed of course also plays a factor – the 35 MPH road I live off of rarely sees drivers going that ‘slow’. My personal theory from what I see at CA intersections, though, is that so many of them have been designed as buffers and yields. I particularly notice when I bike or walk that few people seem to actually stop – before the crosswalk – when taking a right turn on a red light. Have we trained newer generations of drivers not to slow down at intersections? I certainly enjoy the convenience when I drive, but maybe repealing this rule would send the message that human beings are more important than LOS measurements.

  • dat

    https://www.techdirt.com/search-g.php?q=red+light+camera

    Help yourself to this veritable buffet of proof…

  • zippy_monster
  • zippy_monster

    You should care. The way red light cameras are used as cash registers is dangerous. Cities will typically shorten the yellow phase of the signal to a substandard time. Without enough time to stop safely you either encounter increased rates of running red lights or increased rates of rear end wrecks — both of which are a net detriment to safety.

    If you actually keep the signals timed safely/legally, red light cameras will increase compliance. However, this means fewer tickets, less profit for the camera manufactures to kick back to municipalities… and then nobody wants to bother.

  • Eric McClure

    Let me rephrase that.

    Proof from a source that doesn’t have an axe to grind? You must be able to do better than Motorists.org and TechDirt.

  • yugioh_mishima

    If there’s not enough time to stop, people need to slow down. The city should lower the speed limit and follow up with aggressive enforcement or put the street on an aggressive road diet.

  • Guest

    Wrong. The cameras are a deterrent.

  • ridonrides

    Sadly, these excuses won’t work either, because the victims were on the sidewalk.

  • I would say that’s right. I’m pretty sure the new law isn’t in effect, so cameras are still operating in Columbus. The point is, the new law will make these kinds of incidents more common, at least according to the available data.

  • Brad McLaughlin

    I think my context was not clear. My apologies. I do think cameras do deter normal folks, especially if the cameras are well know and public knowledge. I meant in this particular senseless tragedy. Driver had at least 1 flat, was going east on Broad, weaving into westbound traffic, ran earlier red lights, was going fast enough to knock a full sized school bus nearly 90 degrees, in the middle of downtown, literally by the Statehouse. No amount of cameras would have been a deterrent. Also, when one looks at the dynamics involved, I am sure the full amount of ‘justice’ and punishment will be unleashed.

  • Vitaliy Vladimirov

    So sad. The city wanted to turn that intersection into a “Times Square” with the massive billboards, but made no improvements for the constant crowds of pedestrians & bus-riders. Maybe if the Broad St. road diet ever happens, such tragedies can be avoided.

  • zippy_monster
  • dat
  • Eric McClure
  • dat

    I would say that rather than try to dismiss the proof offered you would need to state what is wrong with it and why it is wrong rather than trying to say it is not valid because it came from a source you do not like. “You must be able to do better than..” Why? You have not offered anything to counter them.

  • Sharell

    Poor Intern, Road rules must be tightened!! http://www.photonotice.net

  • neroden

    This is what we need to follow up on. The killer belongs (a) in prison, and (b) with a permanently revoked drivers’ license. But did the police say “oh, it’s just an accident”, the way corrupt police do in NYC? Did the DA say “Oh, we could never prosecute him”, the way corrupt DAs do in NYC?

    This is a year ago. Did anyone follow up on this?

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