Study: Streets With High Foot Traffic Also See High Driving Speeds

A detailed study of where people walk reveals that driving speeds on many of the streets most used by pedestrians in U.S. cities are higher than recommended speeds, putting pedestrians at higher risk for serious injuries and death.

2 minute read

June 27, 2023, 12:00 PM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Pedestrians crossing a busy crosswalk on New York City street with tall buildings in background

Ryan DeBerardinis / Shutterstock

Recent data shows that pedestrian fatalities are hitting record numbers, and now, new research shines a light on the relationship between driving speeds and places with high pedestrian traffic. Kea Wilson describes the study in Streetsblog. 

“In a new study traffic analytics firm Streetlight analyzed anonymized data from millions of cell phones in America's 30 biggest cities to better understand where people are walking the most, and how fast motorists are going in their midst.” Aside from New York City, where drivers average 25 miles per hour or less on 84 percent of the city’s most walked streets, most cities analyzed showed high driving speeds on roads with heavy pedestrian traffic. As Wilson explains, “That's bad news for walkers, considering that most experts say 25 miles per hour is the absolute upper bound of what any policymaker should consider acceptable in places where people travel outside cars.”

In Phoenix, “a surprising 52 percent of street segments reported more than 200 pedestrians an hour, but 65 percent clocked average driver speeds of 35 miles per hour or more.” Wilson adds that “Notably, the authors of the study chose to look rates of speed rather than rates of speeding, since many of the dangerous drivers picked up by their data were likely following the letter of the law.” And even when cities want to lower speed limits, they don’t have the authority to do so on state-owned streets, where 67 percent of pedestrian deaths happen.

Monday, June 26, 2023 in Streetsblog USA

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