Pedestrian life is picking up speed across the country, with an estimated five percent more Americans walking to work now compared to 2000, Bloomberg reports. But with more than 4,700 pedestrian deaths in 2012, city planners are recognizing the importance of improving pathways and policies to protect citizens on their feet.
In a study of the safest cities for pedestrians by insurer Liberty Mutual Holding Co., Seattle topped the list. The Pacific Northwest city had fewer than 10 annual pedestrian deaths in 2012 and was noted for its investment in infrastructure to improve the walking safety of more than 108,000 commuters each day. That same year, the city ordered more than 500 crosswalks and also improved walking routes for students.
Boston and Washington, D.C. came in second and third, respectively. San Francisco notched fourth and New York City grabbed the fifth spot on the list of of 25 cities analyzed for pedestrians. The most dangerous for walkers? Detroit. The report ranks cities by traffic data, infrastructure and local attitude on public safety among 2,500 residents across the observed cities.
Dave Melton, Liberty Mutual’s managing director of global safety, attributes well-planned pedestrian safety to countdown lights and flashers at crosswalks that help drivers focus on the road and direct attention from pedestrians. But pesky cellphone usage still remains an issue.
“The human brain doesn’t multitask,” Melton says. “It switches back and forth.”
It’s tricky to try to control phone distraction, but ensuring every other component of protecting pedestrians is a step in the right direction.