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Twin Cities Ranked 1st in Nation for Preventing Pedestrian Deaths, but Region is Still No Walk in the Park, Report Shows

11/09/2009

CONTACT:
Katie Eukel
612-232-1795
katie@fourthsectorconsulting.com

Minnesota Complete Streets Coalition Urges Elected Officials to Support Increased Focus on Pedestrian Safety in Upcoming State and Federal Legislation

SAINT PAUL, MN — The Twin Cities fared best among 52 of the largest U.S. metro areas for pedestrian fatalities, a new report shows. While this offers evidence that investment in trails, sidewalks, dedicated bike/pedestrian bridges and other infrastructure is making the region a safer and more inviting place for walking, the number of fatalities and accidents is still unacceptable and measures need to be taken to further improve safety and health.

The report, Dangerous by Design: Solving the Epidemic of Preventable Pedestrian Deaths (and Making Great Neighborhoods), ranks America’s major metropolitan areas and states according to a Pedestrian Danger Index that assesses how dangerous they are for walking. Dangerous by Design, released by Transportation for America and the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership, calculated a Pedestrian Danger Index of 22 for the Twin Cities region over a two-year period, lower than the average index of 77.5 calculated for the 52 large regions included in the study. The report also shows that the Twin Cities region spent a higher percentage of its federal transportation funding on bicycle and pedestrian projects than most of the other regions featured in the report — although still less than five percent.

Despite this good news, 35 Twin Cities pedestrians died in traffic crashes in 2007-2008 (8 percent of motor vehicle fatalities in the region) and just over 1,300 more were injured. According to Joan Pasiuk, the Program Director for Bike Walk Twin Cities, “These numbers are nothing to celebrate. It isn’t as if we are doing so well in our region; it is more that we are doing poorly across the nation.” These data do not include incidents where pedestrians were killed or injured in crashes that did not involve a motor vehicle. Two of the deaths in 2008 and 2009 included:

  • Jerome Meuwissen of Chaska, 86, who died while walking to church in December 2008 after being struck by a vehicle in a marked crosswalk on busy Highway 41. After the crash, federal stimulus funding was allocated for a new traffic signal and three raised medians.
  • Stacey Jane Morgan of Oakdale, 33, was struck and killed by a vehicle in September 2009 in the 6900 block of 29th Street in Oakdale as she pushed her baby in a stroller. The baby was not injured. 29th street is a residential street with no sidewalk.

The report authors note that most pedestrian deaths are preventable because they occur on streets that prioritize the movement of vehicle traffic and often lack safe sidewalks, crosswalks, pedestrian signals and other protections. Fixing these problems should be a high priority for state departments of transportation and local communities, the report concludes.

The newly formed Minnesota Complete Streets Coalition is calling for legislation in 2010 that would help improve the safety and accessibility of roads in Minnesota for everyone, including motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, seniors, children, and people with disabilities. A statewide “Complete Streets” policy would help Minnesota update its transportation planning and design process to ensure that we build roads that are safe for everyone.

“Most of our state’s roads were designed at a time when moving more cars faster was the priority,” said Barb Thoman, Program Consultant at Transit for Livable Communities. “Today Minnesotans want streets that are safe for everyone, regardless of whether they’re walking, driving, bicycling, taking the bus or using a wheelchair.”

The State of Minnesota is working hard to reduce traffic fatalities and injuries. The Toward Zero Deaths initiative, lead by the state departments of Public Safety, Transportation and Health, recently held a statewide conference to discuss ways to achieve this goal. Mark Kinde, the Injury and Violence Prevention Unit Leader with the Minnesota Department of Health, gave a presentation about bicycle and pedestrian crashes at the conference in Duluth and said, “We have much ground to cover if we are really going to share the roads in Minnesota.”

Dr. Marc Manley, Chief Prevention Officer at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, an organization that endorses Complete Streets sees complete streets as an opportunity to improve health. “Minnesota is in the middle of an obesity epidemic with 26 percent of adults obese and another 36 percent overweight, in part due to lack of physical activity. So making roads more accessible allows all people to get around safely, meaning that more people can walk and bike as a part of their daily routines. Ultimately that increased physical activity will equate to better health for Minnesotans,” said Dr. Manley.

“As Congress prepares to rewrite the nation’s transportation law, this report is yet another wake-up call showing why it is so urgent to update our policies and spending priorities,” said James Corless, director of Transportation for America.

Under the current federal transportation law, less than 1.5 percent of available funds are directed by states toward pedestrian and bicycle projects, although nationally pedestrians account for nearly 12 percent of all traffic deaths and 9 percent of total trips. Nationwide, between 2007 and 2008, more than 700 children under the age of 15 were killed in a vehicle crash while walking.

Seven organizations served on the steering committee for this report, working closely with Transportation for America and the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership. These organizations include the American Public Health Association, AARP, Smart Growth America, America Bikes, America Walks, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership and the National Complete Streets Coalition. For a copy of the report visit http://t4america.org/resources/dangerousbydesign/

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ABOUT COMPLETE STREETS MINNESOTA
The Minnesota Complete Streets Coalition is a diverse group of more than 30 organizations promoting Complete Streets legislation that will improve the safety of roads for all Minnesotans. www.mncompletestreets.org

ABOUT TRANSIT FOR LIVABLE COMMUNITIES
Transit for Livable Communities is a regional, nonpartisan organization working to reform Minnesota’s transportation system. Through advocacy, organizing, education, and research, it promotes a balanced transportation system that encourages transit, walking, bicycling, and thoughtful development. www.tlcminnesota.org

ABOUT TRANSPORTATION FOR AMERICA (T4AMERICA)
Transportation for America (T4 America) is a broad coalition of more than 300 organizations, representing millions of Americans, focused on creating a 21st Century national transportation program. With member groups from the arenas of real estate and housing, aging, the environment, social equity, public health, transportation and many others, T4 America is working toward a national program that will help make our transportation system safer, cleaner, smarter and more affordable. www.t4america.org

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