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Report: Good News and Bad for Pedestrians in WA

PHOTO: On a new list of most dangerous cities for pedestrians, Seattle ranks near the bottom for its efforts to make streets safer for all forms of transportation, including folks on foot. Photo credit: Linda Washburn Roberts/iStockphoto.
PHOTO: On a new list of most dangerous cities for pedestrians, Seattle ranks near the bottom for its efforts to make streets safer for all forms of transportation, including folks on foot. Photo credit: Linda Washburn Roberts/iStockphoto.
May 20, 2014

SEATTLE - Here's a number that should prompt anyone to look both ways before crossing a street: 678. That's how many pedestrians in Washington have died in the past decade, and 47,000 have been killed nationally.

The National Complete Streets Coalition and Smart Growth America, which released the numbers as part of a new report, cite more distracted drivers and more people on foot as two potential factors in a 6 percent increase in pedestrian deaths in a single year, 2012.

Stefanie Seskin, Coalition deputy director, says most fatalities occur on arterial streets that have speed limits of 40 miles an hour or higher.

"A lot of times, what we see are these very large, wide streets that go through cities - including a couple in Seattle - where you need to re-balance how much street you're giving to different modes, to make sure that we're being safe and we're moving at the appropriate speeds, and everyone is still getting where they need to go," Seskin says.

The report includes information by county, as well as ranking 51 large metro areas based on how dangerous they are for pedestrians. Seattle is near the bottom of that list, in part for passing a "Complete Streets" ordinance to encourage safe street design for all users.

AARP is supporting the research because a disproportionate number of the pedestrian deaths are people age 65 and older, according to Ingrid McDonald, advocacy director, AARP Washington.

"Twenty-five percent of those people killed in our state while they were out walking were older adults," McDonald says. "This is critical for keeping older people mobile as they age: Giving them the option that if they can no longer drive, they can still get around safely in their community by walking," she explains.

In the Washington Legislature's most recent transportation revenue package, however, McDonald notes that only 10 percent of the proposals included any state funding for alternatives to car travel. The report suggests that states prioritize safe-street design the same way they have embraced "Safe Routes to School" programs in neighborhoods.

The pedestrian safety statistics are online at www.smartgrowthamerica.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA