Indiana street design blamed for pedestrian injuries, deaths

Indianapolis is among the most dangerous communities in the nation for pedestrians, ranking 25th most dangerous out of the 51 largest metro areas, a new report released by the National Complete Streets Coalition, a program of Smart Growth America, said.

Over the decade from 2003 to 2012, 199 people in Indianapolis were killed while walking.

Indiana ranked 23rd most dangerous of the 50 states. Between 2003 and 2012, 640 people were killed while walking.

An estimated 17,000 Hoosier pedestrians were involved in crashes during that same time frame.

The report, Dangerous by Design 2014, ranks America’s major metropolitan areas according to a Pedestrian Danger Index that assesses how safe pedestrians are while walking. The report found that the majority of those deaths likely could have been prevented with safer street design.

“This report is a reminder of how much the environments we create affect safety,” said Kim Irwin, executive director of Health by Design, a coalition that works to create built environments that foster healthy living.

“We’re working with a variety of partners through initiatives such as Safe Routes to School, Active Living Workshops and the Indiana Complete Streets Coalition to help make Indiana communities safer for everyone, not just people traveling in cars.”

An online, interactive map shows the locations where each of the 199 fatalities in Indianapolis occurred. The additional 441 fatality sites in the state can be searched as well.

The majority of pedestrian deaths occur on roadways that are dangerous by design — engineered and operated for speeding traffic with little to no provision for the safety of people walking, biking or using public transit. Sadly, older adults, children and minorities are the most at risk while walking. Of the 644 people killed in Indiana between 2003 and 20012, 81 were children younger than 16, and 140 were adults age 65 or older.

Nationally, in 2012, pedestrians accounted for 14 percent of all traffic deaths, up six percent from 2011 and representing a five-year high.

Pedestrian safety is often perceived as a strictly local issue but thousands of miles of roads in the hearts of communities are supported by federal dollars. In fact, 68 percent of all pedestrian fatalities over the past decade occurred on federal-aid roads — roads that follow federal guidelines and are eligible to receive federal funds.

In recent years, scores of communities have begun to redesign roads as “Complete Streets” that function well for all kinds of travelers. They add sidewalks and bicycle lanes, reduce crossing distances and improve crosswalks to make walking safe and comfortable for all users. By making these changes, the report finds many deaths can be prevented.

Health by Design convenes and coordinates the Indiana Complete Streets Coalition, which works to educate leaders on the benefits of Complete Streets and encourage policy adoption and implementation. To date, 12 jurisdictions in Indiana have adopted Complete Streets policies. They are:

1. Bloomington/Monroe County Metropolitan Planning Organization,
2. Madison County Council of Governments,
3. Northwestern Regional Planning Commission,
4. City of Columbus,
5. City of Richmond,
6. Evansville Metropolitan Planning Organization,
7. City of Frankfort,
8. Area of Plan Commission of Tippecanoe County,
9. City of Indianapolis,
10. City of Westfield,
11. City of Peru, and the
12. Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Organization.

“We are allowing an epidemic of pedestrian fatalities, brought on by streets designed for speed and not safety,” said Irwin. “Many of these deaths are easily prevented through policy, design and practice. We need more state and local transportation leaders to prioritize the implementation of Complete Streets policies to improve safety for people walking.”

The federal government sets the tone for a national approach to safety, and Congress can address this critical issue by passing the Safe Streets Act as it renews the transportation law. Representatives Susan Brooks (IN-5) and Andre Carson (IN-7) are cosponsors of that legislation. State governments and agencies also can take a number of actions to improve pedestrian safety, starting with adopting a strong Complete Streets policy and following a comprehensive action plan to ensure that streets are planned and designed for the safety and comfort of people walking.

From a press release by Smart Growth America

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