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5 ways cities can improve pedestrian safety by design

On Behalf of | Sep 14, 2023 | Pedestrian Accidents, Personal Injury |

With pedestrian fatalities reaching an all-time high in 2021, recording roughly 20 deaths daily nationwide, the call for improved road safety is more pressing than ever. But this reality is mainly relevant in cities, as the volume of vehicles and urban dwellers increase, accounting for 70% of the world’s residents by 2030.

The World Resources Institute (WRI) research suggests that improved pedestrian safety is a multi-sectoral responsibility. It might not be enough to remind road users to strictly follow the law. Other stakeholders – city developers, planners and policymakers – can also do their part in intentionally designing safer city roads.

How to design safer cities

The WRI study recognizes that there have been significant strides to solve traffic problems and enhance drivers’ safety. However, these efforts may also lead to further growth in car use.

WRI researchers recommend that sustainable urban development is another path. It can address safety, and even health or environmental concerns through specific design principles:

  • Decreased block sizes: Shorter blocks create more intersections where pedestrians can cross and more junctions to slow down cars
  • Minimized travel lane width: Reduced street width tends to heighten drivers’ perception of potential risks and allows more space for pedestrians to move
  • Increased street connectivity: Linked street networks provide route options, and shortened and direct travel
  • Boosted access to destinations: Areas of interest – schools, parks, churches or shops – must be within walking distance with considerations of residential densities
  • Strengthened “traffic calming” measures: Speed humps and cushions, chokers or curb extensions, and chicanes or artificial turns, can lead to reduced speed and other ways to promote yielding to pedestrians

Aside from these guides, states have varying approaches in shaping streets and neighborhoods to reduce pedestrian risks. Indiana has a Strategic Highway Safety Plan, which is a proactive plan aligned with pedestrian protection. It champions strategies and projects to achieve the state’s ambition of zero traffic fatalities and severe injuries.

Why coming together can save lives

Everyone uses the roads. But lives can be at stake if not all commit to making long-term changes in cities for safer roadways, streets and neighborhoods. Those in the middle of fighting for their lives after a tragic crash can still make their voices matter by working with their counsel to protect their rights and future on the road.

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