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Depending on where you live, your own two feet may be your preferred (or necessary) daily mode of transportation. Though walking is obviously a healthy option (for us and the environment) a recently released report shows it’s not as safe as it seems.
The Dangerous by Design 2014 report by the National Complete Streets Coalition examines where pedestrian traffic deaths occur and who’s most at risk. Note that though the word "pedestrian" usually denotes traveling by foot, this report also includes individuals traveling by wheelchair or bicycle. Our initial reaction to this list: What's going on, Florida?
The most dangerous metropolitan areas to walk
(according to their five-year pedestrian-danger index)
1. Orlando-Kissimmee, FL
2. Tampa-St. Petersburg–Clearwater, FL
3. Jacksonville, FL
4. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL
5. Memphis, TN
6. Birmingham-Hoover, AL
7. Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX
8. Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA
9. Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ
10. Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord, NC/SC
Least dangerous metropolitan areas to walk
1. Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH
2. Pittsburgh, PA
3. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA
4. New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA
5. San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA
6. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI
7. Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton, OR-WA
8. Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, IL-IN-WI
9. Rochester, NY
10. Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor, OH
From 2003 to 2012, 46,025 people died while walking U.S. streets, and an estimated 676,000 pedestrians were injured, according to the report. That means someone on foot was hit by a car about every eight minutes. Most accidents occurred on arterial roadways (high-capacity urban roads) that many people rely on to get from A to B. Locations aside, the report also says there are certain populations more at risk for pedestrian injury, based largely on their increased frequency of walking: children, older adults, and people of color (based on data from the National Household Travel Survey). All these accidents aren’t just a product of distracted drivers and walkers; the report's authors argue the design and operation of U.S. streets needs to change for the better — and fast.
While you or I may not have a whole lot of power over improved street infrastructure, we can keep in mind a few things before pounding the pavement. First, since sidewalks aren't always available, make sure to walk facing traffic if you’re on the street itself. Second, it’s safer to wear only one earbud if you’re listening to music; leave the other ear free to hear emergency vehicles, since they often have to disregard traffic lights. Speaking of disregarding traffic lights, drivers aren’t robots: There's always the possibility that a car won't stop when it's supposed to, so be on the lookout. Finally, leave the texting for when you’re indoors. If you’ve really got to send it, "pull over" so other pedestrians can continue on their merry way.
How do you stay safe while walking your city’s streets?