December 5, 2004 in Nation/World

Study: Walking may be hazardous

John Valenti Newsday

What is the deadliest mode of transportation in the United States?

If you said trains, planes or cars, guess what? You’d be wrong. The answer: walking.

The Surface Transportation Policy Project, a national transportation reform coalition based in Washington, D.C., this week released the results of its latest two-year study of pedestrian safety in the United States – a report called “Mean Streets 2004.”

The coalition said walking is “by far” the most dangerous mode of travel per mile in the United States. The fatality rate for public transit is 0.75 deaths per 100 million miles, while the rate is 1.3 in passenger cars and trucks, 7.3 on commercial airliners – and 20.1 for pedestrians.

The rankings are based on what the Surface Transportation Policy Project calls a “Pedestrian Danger Index.” It is determined based on the number of annual pedestrian fatalities per 100,000, as well as the percent of the population that commutes by walking.

Florida cities Orlando, Tampa-St. Petersburg, West Palm Beach and Miami and Memphis, Tenn., ranked as the five deadliest metro areas for pedestrians. Cincinnati, New York-New Jersey-Long Island, Cleveland-Akron, Pittsburgh and the greater metropolitan Boston area were the five safest areas with populations of more than 1 million.

The study also found that minorities – specifically blacks and Hispanics – were likely to die at a rate disproportionately higher than other pedestrians, though it cited no cause. According to the study, blacks accounted for 18.5 percent of all pedestrian deaths nationally though they represent 12.7 percent of the population, while Hispanics accounted for 16 percent of all pedestrians killed and represent 13.5 percent of the population.

There were 4,919 pedestrian deaths in the United States in 2002 and 4,827 pedestrian deaths in 2003, according to the report.

The study, now in its fifth edition, found that while the raw number of pedestrian fatalities has decreased between 1994 and 2003, the number is misleading – because fewer people are walking now than they were in 1994. The percent of commuters who walk declined 24.9 percent between 1990 and 2000, according to the U.S. Census.

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