Where the Pedestrian Deaths Are

Tuesday, May 20, 2014 – 08:00 AM

Source: TransportationNation

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

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)

(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.


As a group the conversations on the ChainLink Forum indicate that there is very little sympathy for the plight of the pedestrian. We yell at them when they impede our forwards progress and we uniformly seem unable to imagine that when they occupy the ‘crosswalk‘ that theirs is always the right-of-way. No wonder their mortality is much greater than our own (as cyclists). They have to confront not only motor vehicle traffic but bicycles as well.

All that you have to do is witness one of the many films of ‘alley cat‘ races to realize that pedestrian safety is the very last thing on the minds of the participants. They whip through lines of pedestrians in crosswalks as if they were non-existent. And yet we constantly try to frame the narrative regarding the need for bicycle infrastructure as a boon to not only ourselves but everyone else. I believe this to be a lie.

What we are really after is the agreement by the other two legs of the transportation landscape (motorists and pedestrians) to spend what precious little funds are available on us. We as a group are not even very sympathetic with the notion of BikeShare. We give it ‘lip service’ but the fact is neither Chicago nor NYC can keep their BikeShare systems solvent on the backs of the ridership that claims to be ‘bicycle commuters‘.

First is the fact that there are too few of us to make a dent in the needs of the service to maintain itself. Second the percentage of riders who are using the system is largely ‘one-day ridership‘. That would either mean that most users of this type are tourists or everyday commuters who prefer their own bicycle with an occasional use of a Divvy bike.

The so-called Movement is weak. Every single trend that shows any sort of an upward tick we hail as the inevitable torrent of riders marching over the horizon. But it has been but a year since the mayor of NYC pronounced that CitiBike was fully ‘sustainable‘. And like our support of pedestrians that too was a lie.

BikeShare is not really sustainable. Lots of folks who could care less about sustainability (these are generally folks with a Socialist bent) have always felt that the society as a whole should bend the knee to the desires of the Cycling Movement since it was their unrecognized ‘salvation‘. But eventually as the advertising monies dry up, the electorate will discover as have professional bicycle racing team sponsors that nothing about cycling is very permanent. It will indeed go the way of tennis. Some will continue to ride long after the cycling craze has crested. But sooner or later some mechanized form of transportation will supersede it in popularity. Bicycling is simply not a viable method of travel in a world where winter is a very real reality and people are becoming increasing reliant on non-human forms of propulsion.