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Raleigh makes another list -- but not a good one

Pedestrians on Hillsborough Street
Pedestrians on Hillsborough Street
City of Raleigh

Raleigh is used to being selected for "best of" lists but one recent list is a "worst of" list: Raleigh is the 16th worst city in America for pedestrian deaths, according to a report from Smart Growth America, an advocacy group concerned with promoting neighborhoods.

Citing "a legacy of roadways that fail to account for the safety of people on foot," the report found that more than 47,000 pedestrians died from 2003 through 2012. "That is 16 times the number of people who died in natural disasters during in the same ten years, but without the corresponding level of urgency," the report stated.

The pedestrian deaths are being fueled by "a renaissance in walking," the report stated. Health officials have encouraged more walking and local government planners are designing more walkable communities, while city officials tout the walkability of their communities, it stated. Indeed, the City of Raleigh's web site states: "Raleigh is dedicated to becoming a more walkable city!" The city has a Comprehensive Pedestrian Plan to "promote walkability throughout the city."

The Smart Growth America report did not specifically address risks on Raleigh's streets but, in general, stated that roads were built mostly with vehicle traffic in mind and that efforts to make streets safe for walking are playing catch-up.

The Raleigh-Cary area had 165 pedestrian deaths during the period studied, or 1.47 per 100,000 population, giving the area a pedestrian danger index of 100.35, according to the report. The four worst cities were in Florida; topping the list was Orlando, with 583 pedestrian deaths, or 2.75 per 100,000 people, and a pedestrian danger index of 244.28. Tampa, Jacksonville and Miami followed with pedestrian danger indexes of 190.13, 182.71 and 145.33, respectively.

In North Carolina, Charlotte was rated slightly more dangerous than Raleigh, with an index of 111.74.

The report called pedestrian deaths a "national epidemic" and called for stepped-up local and national efforts to design communities that are safer for pedestrians. "Just as we plan and design our communities to protect us from natural disaster, we can plan and design our communities to keep pedestrians safe," it stated. "And, when we make our streets to be safe for people on foot, we get streets that are better for everyone—driving a car or truck, riding a bicycle, or taking public streets. "

Raleigh's walkability plan acknowledges that the city must be made safer for pedestrians but has a plan for achieving that goal. "Many Raleigh streets include a sidewalk on at least one side; however, sidewalks are missing on some streets and in many cases gaps limit the connectivity of the sidewalk network," the plan states. The plan has a series of programs and initiatives designed to "support safety needs, ensure that the pedestrian network is well maintained and encourage more people to walk."