Why Walking Is More Perilous in the U.S. Than in Other Countries
Walking is less popular and more dangerous in the U.S. compared to other countries. According to a study by Virginia Tech, Americans take fewer walking trips and have higher fatality rates. This can be attributed to historical and prevailing infrastructure bias for driving. However, the study also highlights possible solutions to enhance pedestrian safety and encourage walking.
One of the striking facts from the study is that Americans take fewer walking trips per day compared to Britons. However, they are about six times more likely to be killed while walking per mile traveled. Across 11 countries studied from 1990-2020, pedestrian fatalities per capita decreased except for the U.S. which recorded a 25% increase from 2010-2020.
Infrastructure Bias Toward Driving
In the U.S., people are discouraged from walking due to safety concerns and poor walking conditions. Over a decade, the authors of the study have examined walking rates, pedestrian safety, and government policies across multiple countries, cities, and sections of the same city. The findings show that Americans walk less and have a higher walking fatality rate per kilometer walked. This can be attributed to the design of the cities and transportation systems where roadway guidelines prefer car movement over pedestrian-friendly amenities such as crosswalks.
Steps Toward Better Designs
To promote safe walking, governments should prioritize pedestrians in the roadway planning process. This can include incorporating networks of clearly-marked, well-lit sidewalks, crosswalks, and safety islands built into intersection corners and medians. It can also mean rethinking road placement and design speed.
Steps Toward Better Land Use
Along with more pedestrian-friendly street designs, creating more walkable communities requires revamping zoning laws and regulations to allow for more mixed-use spaces. The land use also matters as defining neighborhoods without corner stores, daycares, doctors’ offices, and other necessary amenities forces people to drive long distances with no other options.
Steps Toward Better Driving Habits
Enforcing lower speed limits, tightening laws related to drunk and distracted driving, and revising laws to put more responsibility on drivers can benefit safety for both drivers and walkers.
Steps Toward Better Transportation Education
Proactive education programs related to walking and driving for young people can increase the overall safety of both activities. Many countries with safer walking rates have more restrictive driving regulations.
What Steps Can You Take?
As warmer weather makes walking more attractive, it also provides an opportunity to make communities safer for foot travel. Daily walkers can discuss dangerous situations with local politicians and city engineers since they have valuable insights that can go unnoticed.
Walking is less popular and more dangerous in the U.S. compared to other countries. However, efforts such as better pedestrian-friendly street designs, creating more walkable communities, and enforcing lower speed limits can improve pedestrian safety and encourage walking. Education is also critical for both walking and driving, promoting safer roads, and reducing the likelihood of accidents.
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