Last month, Smart Growth America released a report titled Dangerous by Design which documented the number of people who were struck and killed by automobiles walking on streets from 2008 to 2017. In the report, according to their metrics, the Birmingham metro area ranked 13th nationally, as the most dangerous city for walking.
An epidemic that is getting worse
Over the past decade drivers struck and killed 49,340 people who were walking on streets all across the United States. That’s more than 13 people per day, or one person every hour and 46 minutes.
While automobile deaths have decreased by 6%, pedestrian fatalities have increased 35% between 2008 to 2017.
Fatalities on Highway 280
Last month, 41 year old Jackie Prestley was struck and killed trying to cross Highway 280. According to ABC 33/40, since 2014, there have been seven fatalities along Highway 280 in the small stretch between between Best Buy and LongHorn Steakhouse alone.
The answer: Complete Streets
In response to the rising number of pedestrian deaths nationwide, Smart Growth America is calling on Congress to adopt a strong, federal Complete Streets policy that requires state departments of transportation (DOTs) and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) to consistently plan for all people who use the street, including the most vulnerable users.
In 2018, the city of Birmingham passed a Complete Streets ordinance, joining Homewood, Midfield and Bessemer in the metro area.
“The Complete Streets ordinance codified the idea that the City of Birmingham’s streets are more than thoroughfares for automobiles. They must also accommodate pedestrians, bicyclists, and mass transit wherever possible,” stated Darrell O’Quinn, Birmingham City Councilman and chair of the Council’s Transportation Committee.
“The ordinance mandates a multimodal approach to street design. There was a period of time where pedestrians and other modes were completely disregarded, literally a “no one will ever walk again” mindset. Automobiles were king and governments subsidized their use at the expense of all else. We’ve now realized how shortsighted and foolish that was. However, this has happened only relatively recently. We’ve got a lot of work to do to make our infrastructure more equitable. The Complete Streets ordinance is a tool that helps get us there.”
Along with support from the city, Complete Streets policies have received backing from numerous local civic organizations, including:
AARP of Alabama
Birmingham Business Alliance
Disability Rights & Resources and the American Heart Association
Freshwater Land Trust
University of Alabama at Birmingham
United Way of Central Alabama
Hopefully, through the passage of the Complete Streets ordinance, Birmingham now has the tools to make our communities safer for walking. Additional metro cities need to also adopt the Complete Streets policies.
It is a matter of life and death. To learn more about the Smart Growth America and the Dangerous by Design report, download it – HERE.