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The Roundup

Pedestrian Fatalities Up in Oklahoma

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Posted 08.14.12

Photo courtesy Flickr user atmtx.

Oklahoma is one of the most dangerous states in the country for pedestrians, according to a tally by 24/7 Wall St. The site used traffic fatality data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and  Walk Score‘s “walkability rating” to make its determination.

Oklahoma

Pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 people: 1.65
Total pedestrian fatalities: 62
Total traffic fatalities: 668
Percent of people who walk to work: 1.83% (8th lowest)

Oklahoma was one of six states where the rate of pedestrian fatalities increased by more than 50 percent; here, it doubled. The state also “received poor marks for walkability,” 24/7 Wall St. reported, “with Walk Score giving the state’s 30 cities an average score of 35.78, one of the worst nationwide.”

Some experts interviewed by the site attribute the increase in pedestrian fatalities to “consequences of urban sprawl and inadequate public transportation.”

In Florida, for example, (Bicycle Pedestrian Safety Program Manager Trenda) McPherson said, “we have large urban areas surrounded by huge rural areas that are very often difficult to network between with alternative transportation resources” In these cities, it is extremely difficult to bike or walk. Georgia’s (Safety Project Manager for the Department of Transportation Norm) Cressman explained that residential areas built alongside of multilane roads frequently have crosswalks that are a half mile or more away from public transportation stops, effectively encouraging residents to cross roads unprotected.

Still, Streetsblog noted that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offered little data or analysis as to the underlying causes of pedestrian deaths. Tanya Snyder speculated, though, that most of 73 percent of fatalities that occur in “urban” settings (versus rural) are happening “outside of urban centers, on high-speed arterial roads without many intersections.”

Indeed, according to Transportation for America’s Dangerous by Design report on pedestrian fatalities, more than 52 percent of the 47,067 pedestrians killed (for whom roadway classification data were recorded) between 2000 and 2009 died on principal or minor arterials. These wide, straight roads are often extremely hostile to pedestrians. They feature little to no facilities for walking, so drivers aren’t looking for people on foot. Drivers may not be looking at the road at all, in fact, since the featureless roads “have been shown to encourage distracted driving habits,” according to the report. And, of course, they’re likely driving too fast, because that kind of road design facilitates driving well above the posted speed limit.

For his part, Oklahoma City Councilman Ed Shadid would like to see OKC shift new infrastructure development away from automobile traffic only and toward the inclusion “alternate modes of travel such as public transit, bicycling and walking.” The prime example he offers is ODOT’s planned relocation of I-40 and the construction of the Boulevard the highway is now.

He wrote a guest blog on the subject last month at NewsOK.com:

Multiple cities across the country and world have benefitted from the teardown of above-grade urban highways and replacement with at-grade boulevards, which resulted in tremendous economic development in the area as a result. The notion that the Oklahoma Department of Transportation would tear down the elevated I-40, move it slightly to the south, and then place a new elevated expressway through a sizeable portion of the area of the old I-40 (leading some to say we will have obtained two new highways for the price of three) threatens to preclude any such economic and communal benefit. …

…(U)rban streets, which have more lanes than daily traffic counts would warrant and which make no accommodations for street level development, navigation by bicyclists and pedestrians, or public transit, are destined to work against the development of community. Perhaps no street in Oklahoma City epitomizes the adverse effects of focusing solely on moving maximum amounts of traffic to the exclusion of all else more than E.K. Gaylord. To witness the most tragic aspect of the street’s design I would invite the reader to observe downtown workers who exit through the Sante Fe Parking Garage and then dart across seven lanes of traffic at rush hour to make their way to the Bricktown surface parking lot on Main.

Building the Boulevard as an elevated expressway, as ODOT intends, instead of an at-grade street “exhibits tunnel vision and focuses almost exclusively on moving the greatest number of vehicles through limited access points,” Shadid wrote. “It will not only get more people driving automobiles through the type of congestion it sets out to solve, but we will limit our economic development potential and the ability to create that which we all so innately crave; the development of community.”

Holly Wall, News Editor