We recently learned the Milwaukee metro area is the 41 st most dangerous of the 51 largest metro areas in the nation, according to a new report by the National Complete Streets Coalition, a program of Smart Growth America.
The report, Dangerous by Design 2014, ranks metropolitan areas in terms of pedestrian safety. According to the report, 183 Milwaukee metro area residents were killed while walking between 2003-2012.
Four of the top five most dangerous metro areas for pedestrians are in Florida, including Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville, and Miami. Milwaukee was found to be slightly safer than Providence and Cincinnati (ranked 39 th and 40 th) and slightly more dangerous than Cleveland and Rochester (ranked 42 nd and 43 rd).
The report found that the majority of those deaths likely could have been prevented with safer street design. Most pedestrian deaths occur on roadways that are engineered and operated for speeding traffic with little to no provision for the safety of people walking, biking or using public transit, the report said. The report includes an online interactive map showing the locations where pedestrian fatalities have occurred.
Statewide statistics show that 522 people were killed while walking in Wisconsin between 2003 and 2012, representing 7.6% of the 6,870 traffic-related fatalities in the state during this period. Wisconsin’s overall Pedestrian Danger Index (PDI) is 27.12, which places it 37 th nationally. For the years 2003 to 2010, these fatalities include 43 children under 16 and 140 adults aged 65 or older.
Nearly 60 percent of these people were killed on arterial roads, which are eligible to receive federal funding for construction or improvement, with federal design guidance or oversight. Arterials are often designed and operated to maximize the speed of automotive traffic and not for pedestrian safety and comfort, despite running through places where people need and want to walk.
Over that decade, 41.3% of pedestrian deaths occurred on roadways with a speed limit of 40 mph or higher, 22.3% were on streets with a posted speed limit under 30 mph, and just 0.8% of pedestrians died on streets with a speed limit of 20 mph or lower.
In Wisconsin, adults 65 or older make up 13.3% of the state’s population and represent 26.2% of its pedestrian fatalities from 2003–2010. Older pedestrians died at a rate of 2.3 per 100,000 residents in Wisconsin, compared to 1.02 per 100,000 for residents under age 65, ranking 35th nationally for fatality rate among pedestrians 65 and older.
Not only is that number simply too high, but these deaths are easily prevented through policy, design, and practice. State and local transportation leaders need 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, the report said. State governments and agencies also can also take actions to improve pedestrian safety, starting with adopting a strong Complete Streets policy and following an action plan to ensure the streets are planned and designed for the safety and comfort of people walking.
More Wisconsin-specific information is available at Dangerous by Design 2014: Wisconsin, including recommendations for decision makers at the state and federal levels.