Visitors: Hawaii’s Dangerous Lack of Sidewalks And Personal Tragedy

A Beat of Hawaii neighbor friend, Stephen Ruiz, died in a Poipu Road Kauai pedestrian accident last month. While Honolulu May be the most walkable city in Hawaii, the outer islands do not fare nearly as well.

Caution is needed if you walk along the road without a sidewalk. The Poipu resort area is one such place, and we hope this death brings about needed change.

If you walk without a sidewalk, the U.S. Department of Transportation has an online Pedestrian Safety guide. They suggest you walk facing traffic and as far from traffic as possible. Poipu Road, where the accident happened, as pictured in our lead photo, is popular for walking between resorts, shopping areas, and restaurants. The road is often busy with both traffic and pedestrians.


Hawaii emerged as the state with the second-highest rate of pedestrian fatalities.

A study analyzed data from 2017 to 2021 from the NHTSA’s Motor Vehicle Crash Data Querying and Reporting system. It focused on pedestrian deaths as a proportion of total traffic fatalities over a five-year period

Hawaii came in second and trailed closely behind New Jersey. Of the 511 traffic fatalities recorded in Hawaii during the study period, 138 were pedestrians. This equates to pedestrians comprising 27% of all traffic fatalities in the state, which is a very concerning indication of pedestrian safety on Hawaii roads. California came in third in the study.

Stephen Ruiz suffered fatal injuries after being struck by a vehicle on Poipu Road.

The incident occurred at about nine in the morning when a 2004 Toyota multi-purpose vehicle with two passengers struck Mr. Ruiz near Poipu Shopping Village. It happened when the vehicle suddenly veered off the roadway and killed Mr. Ruiz, age 55, who was walking westbound on the “pedestrian” shoulder. Countless people walk there every day as it is the only place to walk connecting the local businesses with the nearby resorts, including Kiahuna Plantation, Koa Kea Resort, Sheraton Kauai, Poipu Kapili Resort, and Marriott Waiohai.

It appears that Stephen Ruiz died instantly. He was subsequently transported to the Wilcox Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. The two occupants of the vehicle were uninjured in the incident, which was Kauai’s second traffic fatality of 2024.

His family said, “We are absolutely shattered over this unbearable loss. Stephen Ruiz was an incredible husband, father, papa, and friend He touched every single life that he came in contact with. Our lives are forever changed.”

poipu beach park

As Hawaii pedestrian incidents soar, the lack of infrastructure again rears its ugly head.

The dangerous lack of sidewalks in Hawaii has become a pressing issue that poses significant risks to pedestrians across the state. In many areas, particularly on neighbor islands, in residential neighborhoods, and in our rural communities, sidewalks are largely nonexistent or, if present, are inadequate. That forces unaware pedestrians to walk along roadsides or navigate through uneven terrain. It’s clear in the lead photo above that this is precisely the case at iconic and popular Poipu Beach, Kauai.

This infrastructure deficiency has led to numerous safety concerns and now a personal death. Pedestrians, both visitors and residents alike, are exposed to the dangers of car traffic without any sidewalks to separate them. The absence of sidewalks not only increases the risk of such incidents but also contributes to a sense of appropriate insecurity among those walking, especially during high-traffic periods.

In addition, the lack of appropriate pedestrian infrastructure largely impacts vulnerable populations, including children, the elderly, and those with disabilities.

Efforts to address this issue are routinely met with challenges, specifically funding constraints, as well as logistical and other issues.

It’s beyond time to recognize the importance of Hawaii investing in pedestrian-friendly infrastructure needed to improve safety and enhance the quality of life in Hawaii communities. for both residents and visitors.

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35 thoughts on “Visitors: Hawaii’s Dangerous Lack of Sidewalks And Personal Tragedy”

  1. Maui has plenty sidewalks and so many crosswalks but pedestrians often just run across the street at unmarked spots. It would help if more of our crosswalks had flashing lights so there was better visibility at sunset and evenings.

  2. Turning Hawaii into Disneyland cannot, under any circumstances, be a good idea!

    Pre-paid reservations to go to the beach?

    That’s just plain crazy!

  3. It’s a sad day when it takes the life a a loved one on our roads to bring attention to a problem that should be apparent and addressed by our elected officials, period!!
    Kauai Mayor and council should be ashamed!

  4. I can only assume that the driver of the vehicle that ‘veered off the road’ was a local.
    If it had been a tourist it would have been headline news. The name of the tourist and where, he or she, was from would have been clearly specified.
    Kauai has a long tradition of looking the other way when a ‘Local’ is involved.


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