Seattle enviros are celebrating our state and city's high ranking on two recent livability lists---a bikability list from the League of American Bicyclists, which ranks states based on things like bike-friendly legislation, law enforcement, and infrastructure (we came in first), and a walkability list from Transportation for America, which ranks cities based on things like pedestrian deaths and the percentage of workers who commute on foot (Seattle ranked fifth-best.)
Indeed, compared to cities like Tampa, FL (3.5 pedestrian deaths per 100,000 residents per year) and Orlando (where just 1.2 percent of the population walks to work but 3 pedestrians die per 100,000 residents every year), we're doing pretty good on walkability, with fully 3.5 percent of all residents walking to work and just 1.2 pedestrian deaths per 100,000.
And compared to states like West Virginia---which scored "Fs" across the board, from legislation to infrastructure to "education and encouragement"---Washington State isn't doing bad on the bikability front, scoring an overall "B," with "A"s in three of six categories.
Still, it's a little soon to get too cocky. Washington State's biking infrastructure scored a big, fat "D"---meaning that the facilities people actually need to get around by bike in the state are sorely lacking. And the score doesn't take into account things like the percentage of people who actually choose to bike, so that a state like Maine, where just 0.3 percent of commuters get to work by bike, ranks just behind Washington, where twice as many commuters do so.
Moreover, 1.2 deaths per 100,000 is still nearly 400 deaths in the past decade---far more than we should consider acceptable collateral damage of living in an auto-oriented society.
And as Streetsblog DC points out, even though pedestrians make up 12 percent of all road fatalities, cities still spend less than 1.5 percent of their safety budgets on pedestrian safety. More than half of all pedestrian deaths occur on wide arterial roads with little accommodation for pedestrians---places like Rainier Ave. S., where highway-like conditions (wide lanes, few crosswalks, stop lights spaced up to a mile apart, and signal speeds that require pedestrians to run through the crosswalks that do exist) all but ensure dangerous driving and jaywalking, a frequently deadly combination. Low-income people, incidentally, are far more likely to be struck and killed by cars even in cities with better-than-average pedestrian infrastructure like Seattle.
The report itself concludes: "These deaths typically are labeled 'accidents,' and attributed to error on the part of motorist or pedestrian. In fact, however, the majority of these deaths share a common thread: they occurred along “arterial” roadways that were dangerous by design, streets engineered for speeding traffic with little or no provision for people on foot, in wheelchairs or on bicycles."
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