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Newspapers across the country call for increased pedestrian safety following Dangerous by Design rankings

Jackson, Mississippi Credit: Dr. Scott Crawford.

This week’s release of Dangerous by Design has prompted several newspapers to editorialize in favor of tough pedestrian safety measures that address the urgency of the 47,000 killed and 688,000 injured on unsafe streets between 2000 and 2009.

The report generated ample coverage in Florida, home to the nation’s four most dangerous metropolitan areas for pedestrians: Orlando, Tampa, Miami and Jacksonville. Statewide, 5,163 Floridians were killed between 2000 and 2009, at a cost of $22.2 billion.

The Orlando Sentinel weighed in Wednesday, warning: “If you like to walk in Florida, the bad news just keeps coming,” continuing: “What’s attractive about living in a place where it’s dangerous to even walk?”

The Sentinel also turned its attention to Florida’s elected officials who are in a position to make a difference:

Can we look to our current leadership to correct this dubious distinction? Well, U.S Rep. John Mica wants to lift the requirement that 10 percent of federal gas tax proceeds be spent on things like sidewalks and bike lanes. And Gov. Rick Scott’s new Secretary of Transportation, Ananth Prasad, recently testified before Congress that, when money’s tight, it might not make sense to build — you guessed it — sidewalks and bike trails.

(Ed. note: The Sentinel figure is too high — in fact, about 1.5 percent of total federal transportation dollars go toward making walking and biking safer.)

The Gainesville Sun reached a similar conclusion in “A death defying act: Walking across Florida’s mean streets,” saying: “Facilitating the fast movement of automobiles is a far higher priority than saving lives.”

In West Virginia, several newspapers covered the report and the Charleston Daily Mail ran an editorial titled “Protecting pedestrians should be a priority.” They wrote:

Improving safety for pedestrians is essential if the state is going to promote walking as part of any program for healthier living. Given this state’s abysmal rankings in most health categories, the issue seems worthy of government attention.

West Virginia is the home of Nick Rahall, the top Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, as well as key Republican Shelley Moore Capito, who this week announced her intention to fight for pedestrian safety in the next transportation bill. The state ranked 24th out of 50 in overall pedestrian danger index.

Up north, the Philadelphia Inquirer noted Pennsylvania’s relatively favorable ranking overall while imploring Mayor Michael Nutter to continue efforts toward promoting a walkable city. Philadelphia has already expanded bike lanes and instituted a Complete Streets policy.

And in Hawaii, which had the highest fatality rate among senior pedestrians, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser similarly urged renewed focus on the needs of all road users.

Failure to adopt a policy that helps seniors and all citizens use transportation without undue hazard would be a mistake, more costly in the long run and a contradiction in a state that prides itself on its year-round enjoyment of the outdoors.

You can view more state rankings on our report map here.

UPDATE: The Detroit Free Press, hailing from the cradle of the American auto industry, echoed similar themes this weekend, editorializing: “Designing walkable streets and public places is important to building healthy, livable cities that attract talented employees, innovative businesses and creative entrepreneurs.”

Also, several lawmakers responded in the wake of the report.