A new report from Transportation for America (T4America) finds that America’s poor pedestrian infrastructure disproportionately affects low income households. The pedestrian fatality rate is approximately 2.91 per 100,000 persons in the 234 counties where more than 20% of households have incomes below the poverty line. This rate is substantially greater than the national average of 1.6 deaths per 100,000 persons. The US Census Bureau’s 2005-2009 American Community Survey found that more than 19% of households nationwide do not own a vehicle and earn less than $25,000 per year, putting these households at greater risk of pedestrian injury.
T4America found that from 2000 to 2009, more than 47,700 pedestrians were killed in the United States. More than 688,000 pedestrians were injured over the decade. Pedestrians account for 12% of total traffic deaths and a recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that pedestrian crashes are becoming deadlier. The likelihood of a collision resulting in a pedestrian fatality increased by more than 33% in the past 10 years.
While T4America’s analysis is focused primarily on the 52 largest metro areas in the United States, it also highlights risk to pedestrians in rural areas. Low income families in rural areas and small towns are less likely to drive and have decreased access to alternative transportation options, exposing them to greater risk of pedestrian injury or fatality. Approximately 20% of Americans live in rural areas, yet almost 25% of pedestrian fatalities occur in rural areas.
The researchers found that ethnic minorities and the elderly are disproportionately affected by poor pedestrian infrastructure. Blacks make up 12.5% of the U.S. population and yet account for 17.9% of all pedestrian fatalities in the past decade. Similarly, Hispanics comprise 13.9% of the population and 18.5% of all pedestrian fatalities; Americans 65 and older make up 12.4% of the population and 21.7% of all pedestrian fatalities.
T4America also notes the link between poor street design and poor health. Poor street design can create a barrier for people who want to exercise but are unable because their streets are unsafe for pedestrians.
T4America details a number of different policy interventions, including a national complete streets policy, meaning that streets should be designed and built to meet all potential users’ needs, not just the needs of private automobiles, as ways to reduce pedestrian fatalities and injuries especially among at-risk populations. (See Appendix A of the report).
T4America’s Dangerous By Design 2011 report, along with interactive maps and state profiles, is available from http://t4america.org/resources/dangerousbydesign2011/