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New report highlights most dangerous US cities for pedestrians

A new report highlights the most dangerous metropolitan areas in the USA for walking, and calls for policymakers at local, state and national levels to take action to protect pedestrians from being struck and killed by cars.

Between 2005 and 2014, a total of 46,149 people were struck and killed by cars while walking in the USA. In 2014, the most recent year for which data is available, 4,884 people were killed by a car while walking; 105 people more than in 2013. On average, 13 pedestrians were struck and killed by a car every day in 2014. Smart Growth America (SGA) has released Dangerous by Design 2016, the fourth edition of the annual pedestrian safety report, which now includes an improved version of its pedestrian danger index (PDI). While the last edition ranked the largest 51 metropolitan areas, this year’s report includes the largest 104 metro areas and adds a ranking of all 50 states and Washington DC. The seven most dangerous metropolitan areas, and nine of the 11 worst, are in Florida, with Cape Coral-Fort Myers being the most dangerous of all.

SGA and its partners on the report and index, the National Complete Streets Coalition, AARP, the American Society of Landscape Architects, and Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, found that people of color and older adults are overrepresented among pedestrian deaths, and that PDI is strongly correlated with median household income and rates of uninsured individuals. Poor and minority communities are less likely to have effective pedestrian infrastructure, and in many places street designs lack key features that the elderly need. Non-white individuals account for 34.9% of the national population, but make up 46.1% of pedestrian deaths. Older adults are similarly at higher risk: individuals aged 65 years or older are 50% more likely than younger individuals to be struck and killed by a car while walking.

The report says the way streets are designed is a factor in these fatal collisions. Many of these deaths occur on streets with fast-moving cars and poor pedestrian infrastructure. People walk along these roads despite the clear safety risks; a sign that streets are not adequately serving everyone in the community. The authors call on everyone involved in the street design process, from federal policymakers to local elected leaders and transportation engineers, to act to end pedestrian deaths. The report concludes that as long as streets are built to prioritize high speeds at the cost of pedestrian safety, this will remain a problem.

“The report doesn’t include analysis of why these fatalities happened. The dream would be to have a national inventory of national infrastructure and what these streets look like,” said Alex Dodds, communications director at SGA. “There are tons of public-information campaigns about ‘don’t text and drive or drive drunk’ and pedestrian shaming. What gets talked about less is that the way the street is designed is setting a dangerous environment. Public-awareness campaigns are often missing the point: you have to build a street that builds in safety as a priority.”

January 17, 2017

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