Don't walk - especially in Florida

In what state is a pedestrian most-likely to get hit by a car? Florida, by far. But when I read the full report on pedestrian danger, I noticed no map... and it needed one! That's because a trend becomes clear when you plot the data. Specifically, the south is a bad place to be a pedestrian. Why that is, I don't know. And why is say, Alabama, worse than car-crazy California? Is it because there are more elderly drivers in the south? Or is it just the fact that nobody in the north walks in winter, so there's no pedestrians to hit in the tundra states for much of the year? What do you think?? This is actually an important issue. At least one group says that better design of our roads and walkways could have prevented 47,000 pedestrian deaths in the last 10 years. Bigger map HERE.

2 comments:

  1. The sun-belt has more people on the streets riding bicycles, jogging, and walking than the north. They don't necessarily have the sidewalks that would facilitate all that pedestrian activity and they may be attempting to share the road. Add in the normal American distractions that accompany the health conscious jogger (phones, I-pods, gear) and they may step into the path of an on coming vehicle.

    And then there is the age factor. The sun-belt has the older, retired population whose health may be flagging or whose faculties may be not as sharp as they once were. They also have a younger population as the area has been booming over the past few decades. As technology makes the south a more comfortable place to exist in the summer, younger people have gravitated to new homes and subdivisions. In the sun-belt as in the industrial rust belt of the north the poorest of the citizenry remain in the crowded inner cities. They are often forced to rely on their feet as transportation.

    Of the deaths mentioned how many were of seniors? How many drivers were seniors? What was the breakdown of urban / suburban / rural deaths?

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  2. DJWildBill: There is a breakdown in the report (sort of). One problem is that formerly rural areas may have become suburban or urban but the design of the roadways hasn't changed, so the figures might be misleading.

    Everything you've said is part of the problem, but there's another part, too: urban vs. rural street design standards, changing times, and human behavior. Rural roads typically have no sidewalks because pedestrian traffic is assumed to be minimal, and in most cases, that's true. Not many years ago, a sidewalk might have been "value engineered" out of a design, or not included in the first place. Even in suburban areas, sidewalks might not have been used historically. The subdivision I grew up in was built in the 1960s and had no sidewalks at all (and still doesn't). Rural roads that become urban roads due to changes in city planning and zoning often still have a "rural" character, including ditches instead of curbs--and no sidewalks. If you're walking along one of those roads, you have two choices: fight the weeds/grass/ditch/uneven ground beside the road, or walk on the pavement. If you're on the pavement with cars, there's a chance you could be hit.

    Sidewalk design has also changed, from the bare-minimum WPA sidewalks that are still round in older neighborhoods to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant sidewalks that are wider, smoother, and have curb ramps. Many old sidewalks are broken up by tree roots or erosion, and have no curb ramps, so they present tripping hazards and may be hard to navigate. Also, most cities don't plow sidewalks, and adjacent property owners might or might not clear them. The street may be a better walking surface in those cases. ADA has brought a much greater amount of attention to pedestrian needs in general (and issues with disabilities in particular), but it costs more money to "do things right".

    Finally, there's sheer human stubbornness. I repeatedly see people walking or jogging in the street even when there is a 6 ft wide, level ADA-type sidewalk not six feet away. These people refuse to use sidewalks even if provided. That's a major problem and may account for some of the deaths we see. (One of my students this past semester could not comprehend that some people would not use a sidewalk even if it was provided.)

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