Pedestrian Safety Takes Center Stage in Urban Planning and Policymaking

Pedestrian deaths surge in US, experts call for safer road design and urban planning to prioritize walkability and accessibility for all.

Trim Correspondents
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Pedestrian Safety Takes Center Stage in Urban Planning and Policymaking

Pedestrian Safety Takes Center Stage in Urban Planning and Policymaking

As pedestrian fatalities continue to increase in urban areas across the United States, safety advocates are calling for a renewed focus on pedestrian safety in urban planning and policymaking. In 2022, drivers killed at least 7,500 pedestrians nationwide, a staggering 41-year high. The situation is particularly dire in Connecticut, where 73 pedestrians were killed in 2022 and another 51 in 2023.

Experts argue that these deaths are preventable and that road design is a major contributing factor. Arterial roads, which are designed for speed rather than safety, account for 67% of pedestrian deaths in urban areas. Wide lanes, lack of crosswalks, and high speeds make these roads particularly dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists. The increasing prevalence of SUVs and light trucks, which can cause more harm in a collision, has also contributed to the increase in pedestrian fatalities.

Why this matters: The alarming increase in pedestrian deaths highlights the urgent need for cities to prioritize pedestrian safety in their urban planning and policymaking. By redesigning roads and implementing safety measures, cities can create more walkable, livable communities that are accessible and safe for all residents.

Some cities are already taking action to address this issue. In Edinburgh, Scotland, the city council has allocated around 70% of its total budget to roads and footways, with a new scheme that considers factors like pavement width, deprivation levels, and street design classification when deciding where funding will be spent. The council has also increased its annual budget for road and pavement maintenance and is focusing on improving accessibility by doubling the budget for installing dropped kerbs across the city.

In Los Angeles, voters recently approved the Healthy Streets Los Angeles Ballot Measure, which aims to improve pedestrian infrastructure, bike lanes, and public transit. However, the measure has faced opposition from the firefighters' union, who argue that it will make it harder for their trucks to navigate through traffic and prolong emergency response times. This conflict between fire officials and street safety advocates is not unique to LA, as fire departments across the country have opposed safer street design for decades.

As of April 2024, 21 pedestrians have been killed in Connecticut, two more than the same period in 2022 and 2023. Safety advocates stress that prioritizing pedestrian safety through measures such as road redesign and vehicle safety regulations is crucial to ensure safe community navigation for all individuals. "Every individual, regardless of age, ability or socioeconomic status, should be able to navigate their communities safely," said one advocate. "It is time to reframe our priorities and put pedestrian safety at the forefront of urban planning and policymaking."

Key Takeaways

  • Pedestrian fatalities in the US reached a 41-year high in 2022, with 7,500 deaths.
  • Arterial roads designed for speed account for 67% of urban pedestrian deaths.
  • Cities like Edinburgh and LA are taking action to prioritize pedestrian safety in planning.
  • Fire departments have opposed safer street designs, citing concerns about emergency response.
  • Advocates call for reframing priorities to put pedestrian safety at the forefront of policymaking.