In the previous decade, the variety of individuals killed inside vehicles has plummeted, whereas the variety of individuals struck and killed whereas strolling elevated by 35 p.c. Although general roadway fatalities decreased barely in 2017, the final two years on file (2016 and 2017) had been probably the most lethal years for individuals killed by drivers whereas strolling since 1990. Between 2008 and 2017, 49,340 individuals — 13 individuals per day, or one particular person each hour and 46 minutes — had been killed whereas simply strolling on streets all throughout the USA. It’s the equal of a jumbo jet full of individuals crashing — with no survivors — each single month. And from preliminary information for current years, it seems that this fatality price is getting worse.
How might these two tendencies — one hopeful and the opposite extremely disturbing — occur on the similar time? Whereas highway security is historically billed as a neighborhood challenge, the foundation of the issue begins on the prime, with federal transportation coverage. The aim of our nationwide transportation program isn’t connecting individuals to jobs, faculties, grocery shops, and different requirements — it’s ensuring that drivers can drive their vehicles as quick as attainable.
When the U.S. started designing and setting up the freeway system within the Fifties, planners didn’t have the expertise to measure the variety of locations that folks might entry from their houses by totally different modes. So that they used a proxy measurement: car velocity. Within the minds of policymakers, planners, and engineers, a transportation system the place individuals might drive was quickly equated with a system the place individuals might get the place they wanted to go rapidly. Excessive speeds turned a aim. On the similar time, journeys had been made longer by constructing highways by communities, blocking previously quick journeys, and by placing requirements like jobs, faculties, groceries, and banks farther away. So, whereas roads had been designed for individuals to drive quicker, these individuals needed to journey farther and took longer to get the place they’re going.
On native roads, prioritizing car velocity additionally made these roads harmful. Drivers rushing by communities can see much less and have a tougher time avoiding a crash, and people crashes are additionally extra more likely to be lethal. We’ve documented examples of those communities in our report, Dangerous by Design and on the Transportation for America blog, however you possibly can in all probability consider dozens of examples from your personal life — as a result of a lot of the U.S. has been re-molded on this damaged mannequin.
The federal aim of excessive velocity trickles all the way down to native avenue design choices, as states — which personal giant swaths of native roads — set design requirements with a view to greatest meet federal aims and win extra funding. Which means many seemingly native roads will be designed for car speeds higher than is protected for areas the place individuals shall be strolling and biking. These choices will be made with no native authorities’s enter — such because the case in Meridian, Mississippi, the place the city’s Primary Avenue was a state route designed for prime velocity, regardless of being the location of a thriving native retail hall.
What does this imply for cities’ efforts to attain Imaginative and prescient Zero? It signifies that with out full energy to revamp streets, the one means cities can affect car velocity is thru velocity limits — which isn’t as powerful a tool as design. Making streets safer by design was the one means that Oslo, Norway was capable of obtain Imaginative and prescient Zero. With out altering avenue designs, cities don’t stand an opportunity at decreasing the variety of deaths on their roads.
The federal authorities spends tens of billions yearly solely to sacrifice human security for car velocity. Defending the security of all individuals who use the road — particularly the individuals strolling and biking who’re most weak to being struck and killed — must be a better precedence for policymakers, and this precedence should be mirrored within the choices we make about the way to fund, design, function, keep, and measure the success of our roads.
Cities are higher locations to be when you possibly can stroll and bike. Streets designed to accommodate sluggish drivers, individuals strolling and biking, and transit riders are better for businesses, lower your expenses on well being care prices, and will help companies appeal to and retain expertise. And low-speed roads play an enormous function in reducing carbon emissions as a result of safer roads enhance charges of biking, strolling, and transit ridership, in addition to allow fewer and shorter automobile journeys.
Congress could make defending the security of all individuals who use the road a precedence by reflecting this within the choices they make about the way to fund, design, function, keep, and measure the success of our roads. This begins with passing the Complete Streets Act of 2019, a invoice that might put aside federal freeway funds for Full Streets initiatives and direct localities to undertake Full Streets insurance policies. The federal program ought to require designs and approaches that put security — for everybody — first.