This morning various news organizations across the state reported some alarming news: pedestrian fatalities are up 80 percent this year.

Three pedestrian deaths last week across the state brought the 2010 total to 52 fatalities, whereas by this time last year 29 pedestrians had been killed by car drivers.

In a far-too-timely incident, this morning Portland police reported that three pedestrians on North Lombard, including a two year old child, were taken to a hospital after being struck by a roughly 70-year-old car driver who was turned right from Interstate onto Lombard. The two-year-old is in critical condition with life threatening injuries (KATU has a sad photo from the scene).

The Oregonian article quotes the Oregon Department of Transportation official Julie Yip noting that in most fatalities, drivers just didn't see the pedestrians. ODOT is in the midst of a "Be Safe, Be Seen" campaign, encouraging pedestrians to wear brightly-colored or reflective clothing.

I think it's a little absurd to recommend people wear reflective clothing if they plan on walking anywhere. The troubling fact about pedestrian deaths is that the only thing that seems a surefire way to reducing fatalities is to have less people driving—Yip attributes 2009's dip in fatalities to the snowy winter that kept more people off the roads.

It's not a matter of safety vests and dark clothes; our roads are dangerous by design, many of them (including North Lombard) are built for cars, with pedestrian safety as an afterthought. Add to that lax local and national laws that usually slap drivers who accidentally kill people with only a ticket, and we understand how traffic fatalities have become an epidemic that's written off as the cost of doing business.

Update: If you're interested in making our streets safer for pedestrians, I just found out about this pedestrian advocacy meeting tomorrow night. Willamette Pedestrian Coalition is hosting the forum on building a national pedestrian movement Tuesday night, Nov 9th, at Full Life Cafe (3301 NE Sandy Blvd) from 7:30-9:00 p.m.

Update 2: Portland's Bureau of Transportation has year-to-date stats on pedestrian fatalities, but can't break down it's data from previous years to see if we're at an increase over last year around this time. I uploaded a pdf of the stats for Portland bike, pedestrian, and motorcycle fatalities here.