The Most Complete Map of U.S. Pedestrian Risk Yet

New research published by the Journal of Transport and Land Use analyzes tens of thousands of pedestrian fatalities over 16 years in the United States.

July 20, 2021, 9:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Adams Morgan pedestrian zone during COVID-19 pandemic

The Adams Morgan pedestrian zone during COVID-19 pandemic. / Sdkb

A study published by the Journal of Transport and Land Use provides an unprecedented map of traffic safety—or lack thereof—in the United States.

An article by Kea Wilson shares news of the new research: "In what may be the only attempt to map the U.S. corridors with the highest numbers of pedestrian deaths ever conducted, researchers analyzed data on every pedestrian crash fatality since the federal government began collecting standardized data on them in 2001, until 2016, the last year for which finalized data is available."

Three-quarters of the most fatal roads for pedestrians are located in low-income neighborhoods, according to one of the key findings of the research. There's a surprising amount of geographic variety to be found on the list of "hot spot" corridors—defined as 1,000-meter stretches of road where drivers have killed at least six pedestrians in eight years or less.

The surprisingly varied list spans communities from pedestrian-rich Northeastern megacities to car-dependent Sun Belt towns that routinely rank among the most dangerous for pedestrians. Notorious roads like U.S. Highway 19 in Pasco County, FL, made the list – the 20-mile corridor was the site of seven distinct hot spots and 137 walking fatalities during the study period, almost the same number of U.S. commercial airline deaths during the same years — but so did 12 corridors in New York City, which often ranks as the most walkable city in America

The variety of the list does not extend to the designs of the roads, according to Wilson. "No matter the location, the design of the deadly roads were much the same: ultra-wide, blisteringly fast, and flanked by businesses to which residents walk every day."

As noted by Wilson, despite the growing rate of pedestrian fatalities in the United States, most cities don't map their worst crashes. Some advocates, like one cited in the source article, think cities should be required to map their pedestrian fatalities—and be required to undertake design and engineering improvements to reduce fatalities.

Rebecca L. Sanders, the founder and principal researcher of Safe Streets Research, LLC and a co-author of the study, is quoted in the article saying that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has the capability to get the geo-data on road characteristics near hot spots.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021 in Streetsblog USA

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