The Coalition for Smarter Growth crunched the numbers on car crashes that hit pedestrians, the percentage of crashes that are fatal to the pedestrian, and the rate compared to the total numbers of pedestrians on the road.
Fairfax County scored worst with a pedestrian danger index of 44.8, with Prince George’s County hot on its heels in contention for the title of worst pedestrian environment. A PG County walker is three times as likely to die in the event of an auto-involved crash as one in DC. Meanwhile, Alexandria and Arlington topped the safety list, with the District placing a close third.
We can improve safety in several ways, Curb bulb-outs shorten the crossing distance. More narrower streets such as those found in an urban area lead to shorter crossings and slower car speeds. Red-light cameras were found to reduce pedestrian crashes by 30 percent. And reconnecting the street grid, by building neighborhoods with many connected paths instead of numerous cul-de-sacs off a busy main street, allows pedestrians to take a shorter route that avoids the heavy traffic.
The report also rates each county on steps it is taking to improve safety. Arlington has the best program, followed by Alexandria and DC. Despite being the most dangerous county for pedestrians, Fairfax is at least scoring well on some measures to fix the problem, though some of its solutions are anti-urban and ultimately futile skybridges. Meanwhile Price George’s County fails in nearly every category, resorting to fencing its pedestrians in to keep them from trying to cross the enormous, high-speed highways that cover the county where even bus stops often lack stoplights or crosswalks.
VDOT and MDOT also come in for their share of criticism for failing to implement their own Complete Streets and bike and pedestrian plans. The WashCycle discusses how Virginia is driving ahead with plans to widen the Beltway, but the chance of pedestrians and bicyclists getting some space on the new bridges is an afterthought at best.