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Where the Pedestrian Deaths Are

Sprawling cities built after WWII are pedestrian death hotspots

Tuesday, May 20, 2014 - 08:00 AM

Look! Crosswalk sign urging pedestrians to pay attention (Kate Hinds/WNYC)

Between 2003 and 2012, more than 47,000 pedestrians were killed nationwide — even as traffic fatalities overall were falling.

Roger Millar, the director of the National Complete Streets Coalition, called those numbers "staggering." "That's sixteen times the number of people who died in natural disasters during the same ten years," he said.

The group, which is part of the advocacy organization Smart Growth America, released a report Tuesday quantifying a decade of pedestrian deaths and suggesting remedies. It lists U.S. metropolitan regions by what it calls a 'pedestrian death index' — the percentage of pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 people.

U.S. Pedestrian Fatalities, 2003 - 2012

(Smart Growth America)

Florida cities Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville and Miami occupy the top four spots on that list. (Others in the top ten include Memphis, Birmingham, Atlanta, Houston, and Phoenix.)

"A lot of it has to do with the fact that most of our larger cities grew up after World War II," said Florida DOT official Billy Hattaway, "where we had more of a focus on moving people in cars." That focus on cars, he said, comes at the expense of pedestrians trying to navigate wide roads designed to speed traffic.

The better performing cities, by this index, are older ones like New York, Boston, and San Francisco. But in those cities, pedestrians make up a larger-than-the-national-average share of all traffic fatalities. That's not surprising, said Michelle Ernst, the report's lead researcher. "You might expect a high fatality rate in New York City because of the high rate of walking."

So far this year, 43 pedestrians have been killed in New York City. That's over half of all traffic deaths.

The group calls upon cities to adopt Complete Streets -- streets that are designed with all users in mind, not just cars. “Streets must be planned and operated for more than just speeding cars, for people walking and biking and taking public transit need safe comfortable and convenient routes to destinations as well,” said Millar.

The report comes as the White House and elected officials gear up to try to pass a transportation funding bill.

 

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Comments [4]

Bronx from NYC

Statement: "What is also needed is a strict new law that would forbid all people from crossing highways and expressways and certain streets like Fordham Road in the Bronx unless, there are footbridges or overpasses nearby.If there are no footbridges or overpasses nearby, then the Department of Traffic must be called out to inspect the area in question and then arrangements must be made either to build an overpass or footbridge at that spot."

Response: Crossing a highway or expressway is already unauthorized but does not require enforcement because the penalty is usually death or serious injury.

As for Fordham Road, are you mad? Making it an limited access roadway would kill business. It should actually be pedestrianized with through buses only. The vast majority of consumers arrive via mass transit or walking.

Statement: "Some places wouldn't be pedestrian death hot spots if they weren't always jaywalking, which does place themselves into harm's way to begin with."

Like? Please enlighten us.

May. 21 2014 06:41 PM
JOSEPH P. WALL from BRONX

What is also needed is a strict new law that would forbid all people from crossing highways and expressways and certain streets like Fordham Road in the Bronx unless, there are footbridges or overpasses nearby.If there are no footbridges or overpasses nearby, then the Department of Traffic must be called out to inspect the area in question and then arrangements must be made either to build an overpass or footbridge at that spot.

May. 21 2014 11:20 AM
TOM from Brooklyn

Yes, the number is staggering but it is also misleading.

If you add all the numbers, any set of numbers, together, like pedestrian fatalities for ten years not just the past year, it looks staggeringly big. Not that each fatality isn't tragic by itself, or even the big number for just one year.

It also hides the reality but then eyes would begin to gloss over the narrative.

May. 20 2014 06:28 PM
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

Some places wouldn't be pedestrian death hot spots if they weren't always jaywalking, which does place themselves into harm's way to begin with.

May. 20 2014 02:04 PM

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