Where the Pedestrian Deaths Are

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Look! Crosswalk sign urging pedestrians to pay attention

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.