WASHINGTON – Cities in the South and West are the most dangerous for pedestrians, with four in Florida earning the dubious distinction of being the deadliest of all.
A private study released Thursday concluded that sprawling, newer cities in the South and West tend to be built with wide, high-speed roads that are especially dangerous for walking.
"So much of our transportation system is designed for cars and only cars," said Anne Canby, president of the Surface Transportation Policy Project (search), which issued the report. The group advocates balanced transportation.
The report found that the 9,746 walkers who died in 2002-2003 were more likely to be killed on busy streets without crosswalks. Nearly 40 percent died where crosswalks weren't available.
"Wide roads, speeding traffic and a lack of crosswalks or sidewalks can make walking a deadly activity," the report said. "There simply are not enough pedestrian facilities."
Regional differences in walking safety are stark. Twice as many walkers die in traffic accidents in New Orleans, San Diego and Phoenix than in Minneapolis, Milwaukee and Boston.
People are three times more likely to be struck and killed on streets in Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla., Orlando and Miami-Fort Lauderdale than they are in Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio.
Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, characterized by traffic speeding along eight-lane boulevards, was ranked first for its dangerous roads, with 3.69 deaths per 100,000 people in 2002-2003.
Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio was announcing plans Thursday for improving pedestrian safety on Bay Shore Boulevard, one of the city's main thoroughfares. Iorio was responding to public concern over a young female jogger who was killed in February by a speeding motorcyclist while she tried to cross the busy boulevard.
Tampa City Council member Linda Saul-Sena, head of a new "Walkable Roadways" committee, wants drivers to recognize that city streets are for people, not for speed.
"It's changing the culture so the person in the SUV on the cell phone knows that it's their responsibility to stop and respect the pedestrians," said Saul-Sena.
Tampa can take heart from Salt Lake City, which STPP gave poor marks for protecting its walkers shortly after Rocky Anderson (search) was elected mayor in 2000.
As new mayor, Anderson, who campaigned on making the city more walkable, saw a hit-and-run accident that injured a pedestrian on a downtown street. The victim survived, but Anderson vowed he would make the city's pedestrians more visible in a city where long blocks and very wide streets make walking dangerous.
The city put red flags in containers that pedestrians can carry across intersections and wave at drivers. Overhead lights that pedestrians can activate were installed at intersections. Undercover police ticketed drivers who failed to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.
Salt Lake City also promotes walking around downtown by making it a better experience. Outdoor dining is now encouraged, ordinances were changed to make signs more interesting, artists and performers are allowed on public sidewalks.
As a result, accidents involving pedestrians fell 36 percent, to 114, in the first 11 months of 2004, from 177 in 2001.
The STPP ranked Salt Lake City the most improved city for pedestrian safety.
"It's about creating a more interesting, vibrant community, and it's working," Anderson said.