A pedestrian was killed by a motorist Wednesday morning on Preston Highway near Blue Lick Road in Okolona. The collision occurred at 6:35 a.m. as 59-year-old Michael Heinrich, a former Air Force veteran, attempted to cross the five-lane street at the site of a TARC stop in front of McDonalds, about 265 feet from the nearest crosswalk. Witnesses believe he was visiting the McDonalds.
Originally from Evansville, Indiana, several news sources have reported that Heinrich was placed at Interlink Counseling Services, across the street and about 200 feet away from the incident, by the Veterans Administration 30 days ago where he was in the process of sobering up and improving his life.
It’s an incredibly unfortunate experience that a man suffering from alcoholism and homeless on the streets of Evansville with his wife decides to improve his life, moves to a new city, sobers up, and then is killed crossing the street for a cup of coffee in Louisville. In suburban environments like this one on Preston Highway that were planned for cars rather than people, it’s at best a major inconvenience and at worst a death trap to get around on foot.
Police said the driver was not intoxicated and did not appear to be speeding. Charges are not expected to be filed. Metro Police Officer Ray Sutherland urged pedestrians to be cautious, telling the Courier-Journal, “Don’t cross where there’s not a crosswalk. Why take that chance?”
Unfortunately in environments like Preston Highway that weren’t built for pedestrians, crosswalks (red in the map above) are few and far between. If Heinrich had used the closest crosswalk, his quick 200 foot walk would have more than tripled. In hindsight the extra 500 feet might seem worth it, but we all make judgements on convenience all the time. Some parts of the city are better built to handle this than others.
Compared to the massive scale of Outer Loop (on the left-hand-side of the map above) and its highway-interchange-esque intersection, this portion of Preston Highway almost seems quaint. With Southern High School (on the right-hand-side of the map) in the area as well, it’s imperative to increase safety for Okolona. Large spans with no signaled intersections like this tend to promote speeding, despite a posted speed limit of 35mph. At least there are sidewalks.
Imagine a walkable town center on this stretch of Preston (can we drop the “highway”?), perhaps including a bike trail along the Southern Ditch watershed connecting to Jefferson Mall. Hopefully this tragic incident won’t have been in vain.