Thirteen. That's the average number of people killed each day in America just from walking about. Not from guns, heroin, or cancer—just from walking on the nation's streets. In 2014, 4,884 pedestrians died after being hit by cars, and the rate has actually been increasing overall. At a time when riding inside a car is getting markedly safer, many places are getting more precarious for pedestrians.
The figures come from Smart Growth America (SGA), an advocacy group, in a new report. It notes that pedestrian deaths are disproportionately higher in poorer neighborhoods, and disproportionately affect people of color, the elderly, and those lacking health insurance. Non-whites and Hispanics make up about 35% of the U.S. population, yet accounted for 46.1% of pedestrian deaths between 2005 and 2014.
SGA ranks metro areas for pedestrian danger, creating a Pedestrian Death Index (PDI). Though most deaths occur in major cities like New York or San Francisco, when you count fatalities relative to the number of people who walk in cities, smaller metros turn out to be more dangerous. Florida is the most dangerous state, as has been the case across four editions of the report. It contributes seven of the top-ten most dangerous metros for walkers, with Cape Coral-Fort Myers the most dangerous place judged by its PDI score.
The report, called "Dangerous By Design," argues that pedestrian deaths are caused by poor infrastructure: basically, streets that encourage drivers to go too fast and that don't offer protection for other users. "Road designs meant for highways—such as wide, straight lanes—can be dangerous when applied to the streets that go through communities and are lined with homes, shops, schools, and offices," it says.
The answer is "complete streets" that come with sidewalks, refuge islands, pedestrian countdown signals, restricted right turns on red lights, trees, and narrower lanes (among of other changes), says Emiko Atherton, director of the National Complete Streets Coalition, a Smart Growth America program. (Here are some good examples of complete streets we covered previously.)
In fact, 30 of 51 metro areas have become less dangerous since the last report, showing how design can help. The overall pedestrian numbers are up not because everywhere is getting worse, but because certain pockets of America still haven't got the complete streets message. Places like Jacksonville, Florida, Memphis, Tennessee, and Riverside, California, all became a good deal more dangerous in the last few years, dragging the overall numbers down.
See the full report here.
[Photo: Cat Gwynn/Getty Images]