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The Demographics of Pedestrian Safety

While pedestrian safety affects all areas, it disproportionately affects cities with large minority populations because they are more likely to walk than whites. Santa Ana, Calif. a majority "minority" city, is taking steps to make walking safer.
June 11, 2014, 10am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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"In cities such as Santa Ana, a dense city of about 330,000 people, the threat of cars hitting people is heightened in neighborhoods designed more for drivers than walkers," writes Haya El Nasser. The "population of Latinos is close to 80 percent" and is also "the largest Latino district in California" according to Santa Ana Councilwoman Michele Martinez

According to Smart Growth America's recent report on pedestrian fatalities, "people of color suffer disproportionately from traffic deaths," writes El Nasser, pointing to her article last month that showed in Florida, the worst state for pedestrians according to the report, minorities and seniors faced the most risk.

"According to the National Household Travel Survey, whites make less than 10 percent of all trips on foot, compared with 12 percent for blacks and more than 14 percent for Hispanics," writes El Nasser.

“I suspect that part of the reason that racial and ethnic minorities also are disproportionately represented is that they live along those arterial boulevards with strip malls along the way,” said Michelle Ernst, of Ernst Transportation Analytics, who analyzed data for Smart Growth America’s recent Dangerous by Design 2014 report.

Santa Ana is tackling pedestrian safety from many angles. Bulb-outs, road diets, and mid-block crosswalks have been added. It is drafting a bike/walk master plan. “Santa Ana is experiencing a renaissance in how they’re approaching street design,” said Tony Dang, deputy director of California Walks, a nonprofit pedestrian advocacy group.

Statewide, last year "California passed the Active Transportation Program to encourage active modes of transit and to make walking and biking safer. In 2011, pedestrians and bicyclists made up 53 percent of all fatal and severe-injury hit-and-run collisions statewide," writes El Nasser.

The program will open up $360 million to California communities, and “at least 25 percent of the funds are supposed to go to disadvantaged communities,” said Tony Dang, deputy director of California Walks, a nonprofit pedestrian advocacy group.

"Santa Ana has applied for 10 grants totaling $6.1 million" from the program. 

“Santa Ana is experiencing a renaissance in how they're approaching street design,” said Dang. “It comes from a long history of pretty terrible rankings. Santa Ana is No. 1 in the state for pedestrian fatalities and injuries for children under 15.”

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Published on Tuesday, June 10, 2014 in Aljazeera America
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