Dangerous by Design: Richmond rated worst in Virginia for pedestrian safety


Dangerous By DesignStatistics can be an important tool. Understanding statistics can help you assess the quality of studies and the validity of their conclusions.

As a planner, statistics are vital to assessing areas of need. As a bike and pedestrian planner, it can be difficult to measure certain aspects of our infrastructure and how people navigate our transit networks. Giving policy makers factual statistics to enhance work study is commonplace.

People die on our nation’s roadways every day – an average of 13 pedestrians each day. In 2012, 92 people were killed on the roadways of the U.S. each day, according to the National Highway Safety Administration. Motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians all face danger every time they venture out.

In my role at the Richmond Regional Planning District Commission, I am charged with working with the regional localities to assess the region’s bike/ped infrastructure. The localities I work with need data to back our work.

Smart Growth America’s recent 2016 Dangerous By Design study published plenty of useful data. It shows what they call the Pedestrian Danger Index (PDI) and other fatality statistics for each of the 104 largest metropolitan statistical areas (or MSAs, defined by the Census Bureau) in the country. PDI is a calculation of the share of local commuters who walk to work and the most recent data on pedestrian deaths. The higher a metro area’s PDI, the more dangerous it is for people walking, according to Smart Growth America.

Richmond was ranked 44th among the 104 metro areas in the PDI results:

  • Total pedestrian deaths (2005-14): 140
  • Annual pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 people: 1.22
  • 2016 Pedestrian Danger Index: 81

Compared to Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News (ranked 77th):

  • Total pedestrian deaths (2005-14): 189
  • Annual pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 people: 1.11
  • 2016 Pedestrian Danger Index: 37.7

The Richmond metro area population was an estimated 1,263,617 in 2015, according to the Greater Richmond Partnership. (The City of Richmond itself was 217,938 in 2015). The estimated 2014 population for the Hampton Roads MSA was 1,716,624.

Where are the pedestrians being killed in the Richmond region? The study has GIS maps filled with data, including the locations where the pedestrians were killed. (Click the article and the “Interactive Maps” tab. Find Richmond, or any other U.S. city).

Dangerous By Design - Map

The top 10 worst MSAs? Infamously, eight of the 10 are in Florida:

Dangerous By Design - 10 Worst Pedestrian Danger Index

An NPR report on the study included several noteworthy items as it relates to planning:

  • Between 2005 and 2014, a total of 46,149 people were struck and killed by cars while walking — an average of 13 people per day.
  • People of color are over-represented among those pedestrians killed. Non-white people are 34.9 percent of the U.S. population, but make up 46.1 percent of pedestrian deaths.
  • People 65 years or older are also in particular danger: They are 50 percent more likely than younger people to be killed by a car while walking.

We need to get on board with #VisionZero. Construct, support and maintain a transportation network that keeps people from dying. No more death by automobile.

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