Pedestrian safety is a major issue in the United States. Between 2000 and 2009, over 47,700 pedestrians were killed. Pedestrian fatalities occur at a higher rate here than in similar countries such as Canada or Australia. One of the contributing factors to the number of pedestrian fatalities is often poor street design. In 2011, Transportation for America did a study of “preventable” pedestrian deaths, which examined the dangers of car-centric design (they also emphasized the disproportionately high number of pedestrian fatalities within certain groups, including low-income individuals and the elderly). All too often, pedestrians are forced to cross roads with inadequate crosswalk markings or that are too wide to cross in the amount of time provided by the traffic light.
There is a strong correlation between “incomplete” street design and pedestrian deaths; in fact, the majority of pedestrian deaths occurred on arterial streets, which are designed to make cars go faster. These streets, as the report states, are “dangerous by design.” The report ranked metropolitan areas based on this danger to pedestrians. The Philadelphia region was ranked 39th most dangerous (out of 52 metro areas). As part of the report on intersections that are dangerous by design, Transportation for America also created an interactive map of pedestrian fatalities. With this map, you can enter any address or place in America and find out where these deaths occurred, along with limited demographic information about the victims. By glancing at the map, it is fairly clear that arterial streets are inherently dangerous for pedestrians.
Though walking is encouraged as a form of transportation (it’s free, and it can improve your health and reduce obesity), much of our country’s infrastructure is designed in a way that makes getting somewhere on foot difficult or downright dangerous. Some streets are so poorly designed as to be almost comical. Streetsblog.org did a feature on an intersection in Washington, D.C. that is the antithesis of pedestrian-friendly, and from that, a poll for America’s Worst Intersection emerged. The winner (shown below) was an intersection in Omaha, Nebraska with a confluence of turn lanes and nary a crosswalk in sight.