If you value your life, don't walk in Florida

A report from Smart Growth America on pedestrian fatalities shows that cities in Florida and other parts of the Sunbelt are more deadly than others.

August 27, 2014 |
Rob Cassidy

Chart: \"Fear on Foot,\" Planning Magazine

How safe is it to walk in America's cities? A report by Smart Growth America, "Dangerous by Design," found certain cities in Florida and elsewhere in the Sunbelt had acutely high rates of pedestrian fatalities over the last decade.

The U.S. average annual fatality rate per 100,000 of commuters who walk: 52. Most older Northern cities had much lower rates: 28 in New York, 19 in Boston, 33 in Chicago, 34 in Pittsburgh. On the West Coast, Seattle (27), Portland (32), and San Francisco (31) were all well below the national average.

But go south and - watch out! Memphis: 131. Atlanta, 119. Birmingham, 126.

Then there's Florida, which, judging by the following numbers, will have to change its nickname from The Sunshine State to ... well, something less sunny. Pedestrian fatalities averaged 145 in Miami, 183 in JAX, 190 in Tampa, and 244 in Orlando. Holy Mickey Mouse!

Elsewhere among Sunbelt cities, Houston (120) and Phoenix (119) were right up there, too.

Another interesting finding: pedestrians 75 and older suffered fatalities at twice the expected rate (12% of pedestrian deaths, while constituting only 6% of population). Similar results for those 65 and older: 21% of all pedestrian deaths, for just 13% of the population. So don't walk if you're getting old.

Smart Growth America recommends a number of steps to reduce pedestrian fatalities, such as adopting a complete streets policy and comprehensive implementation plan.

I say, learn from California: Have your local police vigorously ticket drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians. And ticket jaywalkers, too. It's only fair.

Rob Cassidy | Building Team Blog

Rob Cassidy (“ClimateGrouch”) is editorial director of Building Design+Construction. A city planner, he is the author of several books, including “Livable Cities,” and was a co-founder of the Friends of the Chicago River.

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