Over 47,000 people died while walking America's streets from 2003-2012 -- that's 16 times more than died in natural disasters in those years. No hurricane, tornado, flood or earthquake compares with the danger faced just crossing the street in the United States.
And the danger is getting worse. After a drop in pedestrian fatalities in 2007-2009, the number climbed again to 4743 in 2012, with pedestrians making up 15% of all traffic fatalities.
Smart Growth America, a coalition of pedestrian advocates and transportation reform groups, has released its Dangerous By Design 2014 report, which names the most dangerous cities for walking in the United States.
The report uses five years of pedestrian fatality data and U.S. Census statistics on walking to calculate a Pedestrian Danger Index (PDI). It ranks the 52 largest metropolitan areas for statistics from 2008-2012. The good news is that scores have improved for most of the worst cities since the 2011 Dangerous by Design report.
The Most Dangerous Cities for Walkers 2014
- Orlando-Kissimmee, FL PDI 244.28 (improving)
- Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL 190.13 (improving)
- Jacksonville, FL 182.71 (worse than the 2011 report)
- Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL 145.33 (improving)
- Memphis, TN-MS-AR 131.26
- Birmingham-Hoover, AL 125.60
- Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX 119.64 (improving)
- Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA 119.35
- Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ 118.64 (improving)
- Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord, NC-SC 111.74
Cities that were in the 10 worst in the 2011 report that have improved enough to drop down the list:
- Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA - improved 37 points to 102.17
- Las Vegas-Paradise, NV - improved 32 points to 102.67
- Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX - improved 12 points to 107.54
Safest Walking Cities 2014The 10 least-dangerous cities for walkers had scores 200 points or more lower than the worst on the Pedestrian Danger Index. While they have low danger scores, they still accounted for 7029 deaths in five years. Almost half of those are in New York City.
- Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH 18.65
- Pittsburgh, PA 25.1
- Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA 26.81
- New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA 28.43
- San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA 31.44
- Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI 32.15
- Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton, OR-WA 32.19
- Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, IL-IN-WI 32.94
- Rochester, NY 33.97
- Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor, OH 34.37
Dangerous Florida Makes Improvements
The horrible rankings of four Florida metro areas in the 2011 Dangerous by Design report spurred Ananth Prasad, Florida's transportation secretary, to create a Bicycle/Pedestrian Focused Initiative. With 15 staff covering policy, education, street planning and design, they produced a Pedestrian and Bicycle Strategic Safety Plan in February, 2013.
They target high-crash locations for improvements such as signals, crosswalks and refuge islands. They host fun public events such as NBA Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra leading a bike ride. In three years, 26 agencies adopted Complete Streets policies.
The city of Jacksonville - still third worst on the national list and not yet improving - hired a bicycle/pedestrian coordinator and is working on walking-friendly design standards. They are reaching out with public service announcements.
Better results are coming in central Florida with a focus on enforcement to cite drivers who don't yield to pedestrians. After 3,200 warnings for failure to yield, the rates jumped from a dismal 12% to 48% There is still much room for improvement.
Steps to Make the Streets Safer for Walking
The most dangerous streets are often roadways that receive federal funds and follow federal guidelines, with 68% of the fatalities happening on federal-aid roadways. Yet less than one-half of one percent of safety funds are spent on walking safety for those roadways. Even worse, state and national laws often block attempts to redesign roadways for better safety. Smart Growth America makes these recommendations:
1. Strengthen the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP): When they combined the Transportation Enhancements, Recreational Trails and the Safe Routes to School programs, they cut the overall funding by one quarter. Less federal money meant fewer improvements in sidewalks, crosswalks and trails.
2. Hold states accountable for traffic fatalities and serious injuries.
3. Make safety for people on foot or bicycle a clear performance measure for future transportation law.
4. Adopt a national complete streets policy. Complete streets are designed for safety of not only vehicles, but also pedestrians, bikes, seniors and public transportation.
5. Increase the federal cost share for certain safety programs such as pedestrian hybrid beacons, medians, crossing islands, and Safe Routes to School projects.
6. Ensure better data collection.
The Dangerous by Design report is supported by AARP, the American Society of Landscape Architects, and America Walks, a partnership of walking advocate groups with local chapters in cities across the USA.
"Dangerous by Design 2014," Smart Growth America, May, 2014.