WASHINGTON – The Baltimore-Washington area has become slightly more dangerous for pedestrians over the past decade, but is still just 32nd on the list of the 50-most dangerous cities for walkers, according to a new report.
The Surface Transportation Policy Project said Thursday that there were 1.76 pedestrian deaths per 100,000 residents of the region from 2002 to 2003, well below the most dangerous city of Orlando, Fla., which had a death rate of 3.15 per 100,000 for the two-year period.
The report said walking is the most dangerous form of transport per mile, with 20.1 pedestrians killed for every 100 million miles traveled, compared to 1.3 for cars and trucks and 7.3 for airlines — which includes those killed Sept. 11, 2001.
“If this was happening in any other mode of transportation, people would be up in arms,” said Delegate William A. Bronrott, D-Montgomery, who was on hand for the release of the report.
The findings are disappointing at a time when communities nationwide are attempting to promote walking to improve public health and environmental concerns, said Anne Canby, the president of the Surface Transportation Policy Project.
“We cannot tell people that walking isn’t safe, while at the same time telling them that they need to walk for their health,” she said.
The report rated cities according to a formula that compared pedestrian deaths in an area to the percentage the population there that walks to work. Because of that, Orlando was able to edge out the Tampa, Fla., area for most dangerous, even though the pedestrian death rate was higher in Tampa, at 3.69 deaths per 100,000 residents.
In the Baltimore-Washington area, the formula rated Spotsylvania County, Va., the most deadly in the region. But Spotsylvania’s four pedestrian deaths paled next to the 57 in Prince George’s County, 34 in Baltimore County, 27 in Baltimore City and 25 in Montgomery County — the top four jurisdictions in the region in terms of actual deaths.
In terms of most-dangerous counties, Maryland claimed three of the top five spots, according to the report. Charles County, with six deaths, was second to Spotsylvania, followed by Prince George’s in third, Howard County in fourth and Loudoun County, Va., in fifth place.
Despite a relatively high death toll, Baltimore City and Washington, D.C., were ranked among the safest places in the region because 7.1 percent and 11.8 percent of residents, respectively, walk to work.
Pedestrian safety problems are caused mainly by roads that are designed for cars and trucks, without people in mind, said Paul Farmer, executive director of the American Planning Association.
“They’ve been produced by 50 years of dumb growth,” Farmer said, adding that too many transportation dollars have been “diverted to traditional highway projects,” which result in wide, multilane, high-capacity roads that are dangerous to pedestrians.
Bronrott said Montgomery County is fighting that problem with the “three E’s” of education, enforcement and engineering. Police there have been cracking down on motorists who fail to yield to pedestrians, and the county has been looking at ways to “re-tool” especially dangerous intersections, he said.
“This is the major transportation issue of the 21st century,” Bronrott said. “Crossing the street shouldn’t be or shouldn’t feel like a death-defying act.”
-30- CNS 12-02-04