Dangerous By Design
UPDATE: Read the 2011 edition of this report. http://t4america.org/resources/dangerousbydesign2011
|Download the full report (pdf)|
|We took your message to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and the U.S. DOT to make pedestrian safety a priority.|
Solving the Epidemic of Preventable Pedestrian Deaths (and Making Great Neighborhoods)
In the last 15 years, more than 76,000 Americans have been killed while crossing or walking along a street in their community. More than 43,000 Americans – including 3,906 children under 16 – have been killed this decade alone. This is the equivalent of a jumbo jet going down roughly every month, yet it receives nothing like the kind of attention that would surely follow such a disaster.
Children, the elderly, and ethnic minorities are disproportionately represented in this figure, but people of all ages and all walks of life have been struck down in the simple act of walking. These deaths typically are labeled “accidents,” and attributed to error on the part of motorist or pedestrian. In fact, however, an overwhelming proportion share a similar factor: They occurred along roadways that were dangerous by design, streets that were engineered for speeding cars and made little or no provision for people on foot, in wheelchairs or on a bicycle.
While it is still unnecessarily dangerous for pedestrians to walk, health experts are making the case that it can be just as deadly not to walk. Even as these preventable deaths mount, there has been a growing recognition that walking and bicycling – what many now refer to as “active transportation” – are critical to increasing levels of healthy exercise and reducing obesity and heart disease.
At the same time, it has become increasingly clear that these clean, human-powered modes of transportation are an essential part of efforts to limit the negative impacts of traffic congestion, oil dependency and climate change. In recent years, community after community has begun to retrofit poorly designed roads to become complete streets, adding sidewalks and bicycle lanes, reducing crossing distances and installing trees and crosswalks to make walking and biking safer and more inviting. The resulting safer streets have saved the lives of both pedestrians and motorists even as they promote health by leading many residents to become more physically active.
There still is a long way to go to repair the damage done to communities in the past, even as we begin to shift policies and design philosophy to build streets that are safer for pedestrians and motorists alike. However, there are a growing number of excellent models to build on and thousands of communities eager to move forward. The forthcoming rewrite of the nation’s transportation policy presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create safer streets that will be critical to keeping our neighborhoods livable, our population more fit and our nation less dependent on foreign oil.
|Rank||Metropolitan Area||2007-08 Pedestrian
|2||Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL||205.5|
|3||Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL||181.2|
|7||Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN||114.8|
|8||Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX||112.4|
|10||Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA||108.3|
|Full Rankings and Tables|
|Table 1:||Ranking 52 Largest Metro Areas|
|Table 2:||10 Metros >1m With Highest Share of Pedestrian Fatalities|
|Table 3:||Highest Avg. Annual Fatalities per 100k People Age 65 and Older|
|Table 4:||52 Metros >1m with Highest Yearly Spending on Pedestrians|
|Table 5:||Pedestrian Fatalities & Federal Spending on Walking & Biking by State|
|Appendix C:||All 360 Metros with Pedestrian Danger Index Grouped by State|
The Most Dangerous Cities for Walking
Researchers at the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership in the 1990s developed the Pedestrian Danger Index (PDI) in order to establish a level playing field for comparing metropolitan areas based on the danger to pedestrians. The PDI corrects for the fact that the cities where more people walk on a daily basis are likely to have a greater number of pedestrian fatalities, by computing the rate of pedestrian deaths relative to the amount of walking residents do on average.
The PDI shows that the most dangerous places to walk are those that fail to make smart infrastructure investments that make roads safer for everyone.
The most dangerous metropolitan areas in the U.S. for walking in 2007-2008 were: Orlando, Tampa, Miami, Jacksonville, Memphis, Raleigh, Louisville, Houston, Birmingham and Atlanta. Orlando tops the list because of its high pedestrian fatality rate of 2.9 pedestrian deaths per 100,000 residents, despite a very low proportion of residents walking to work, only 1.3 percent. In other words, the few people who do walk in Orlando face a relatively high risk of being killed by traffic.
Safety investments are lacking
This report also analyzes state and regional spending of federal transportation dollars on pedestrian safety, finding that many of the metropolitan areas in greatest need of improvement are spending the least amount on pedestrian safety projects. Nationwide, less than 1.5 percent of funds authorized under the federal transportation law, SAFETEA-LU, have been allocated for projects to improve the safety of walking and bicycling, even though pedestrians comprise 11.8 percent of all traffic deaths and trips made on foot account for almost 9 percent of total trips. SAFETEA-LU created a new safety program and changed regulations to make it easier to use what were once “highway funds” on a wider variety of transportation projects, including public transportation and pedestrian facilities.
|Altamesa Walker led her four young children across a major five-lane thoroughfare in suburban Atlanta early morning on November 17. The family had missed its bus and was attempting to reach the bus stop on the opposite side in hopes of catching an alternate route. There was no crosswalk between the two bus stops, and both are located several hundred feet from the nearest intersection with crosswalks. They stopped midway across the road, in a turning lane they hoped would offer the protection of a (nonexistent) median. Resuming their crossing, and assuming safety, Walker’s four-year-old daughter was fatally struck by a car.|
|Source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution|
At the state and local levels, no state spends more than 5 percent of federal transportation funds on sidewalks, crosswalks, traffic calming, speed humps, multi-use paths, or safety programs for pedestrians or cyclists. This is in spite of a more than 30 percent increase in total federal transportation dollars to states with the passage of SAFETEA-LU in 2005. The 52 largest metro areas averaged annual spending of federal funds on bicycle and pedestrian projects of just $1.39 per person. The average metro area spends 2.2 percent of their federal transportation funds on projects to improve conditions for walking and bicycling.
More than half of deaths are on poorly designed arterials
Over the last several decades, most of the business of daily life has shifted from Main Streets to state highways that have grown wider and wider over time. These arterial roads, as they are called, have drawn shopping centers, drive-throughs, apartment complexes and office parks. However, the pressure to move as many cars through these areas as quickly as possible has led transportation departments to squeeze in as many lanes as they can, while designing out sidewalks, crosswalks and crossing signals, on-street parking, and even street trees in order to remove impediments to speeding traffic.
As a result, more than half of fatal vehicle crashes occurred on these wide, high capacity and high-speed thoroughfares. Though dangerous, these arterials are all but unavoidable because they are the trunk lines carrying most local traffic and supporting nearly all the commercial activity essential to daily life. These roads have an enormous impact on residential neighborhoods, as well: For example, a recent AARP poll of adults 50 years and older found that 40% reported inadequate sidewalks in their neighborhoods and nearly half of respondents reported that they could not safely cross the main roads close to their home.
Preventing deaths and promoting health with safer design
Many communities have succeeded at making walking safer through investments in pedestrian infrastructure. Cities, regions, and states across the U.S. have adopted policies and design guidelines that prioritize walking and bicycling. These tools for change include creating walkable communities, traffic calming, road diets, Complete Streets policies and Safe Routes to School programs.
Now is the time for Congress to act
Congress is currently considering the goals and objectives for a federal transportation bill that will send transportation money to states and cities and guide their spending priorities. The continued high fatality rate shows a clear need for strong leadership and greater resources to end preventable pedestrian deaths and require more accountability from states on how those funds are spent.
Adopt a National Complete Streets Policy. Ensure that all federally funded road projects take into account the needs of all users of the transportation system, including pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users as well as children, older adults and individuals with disabilities, so they are able to travel safely and conveniently on our streets. Learn more at www.completestreets.org
Expand the Safe Routes to School Program. Expanding the Safe Routes to School program would allow more communities and schools across the country to address critical safety concerns and make it safer for students walking and bicycling to school and in their neighborhoods. Learn more at www.saferoutespartnership.org
Commit a Fair Share for Safety. With pedestrians comprising 11.8 percent of all traffic fatalities, it is only fair to dedicate at least that proportion of Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) funds to pedestrian projects.
Hold states accountable. Congress must hold states accountable to ensure that transportation funds are spent wisely, by ensuring that:
- New streets are built to be safe for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists alike,
- The most dangerous roads are retrofit for safety,
- Federal safety dollars result in lives saved and a more active population.