It may be surprising to hear, with as much as North Texas has been deservedly trashed for being a car-dependent, unwalkable hellscape, but DFW fails to crack even the top 50 of a recent Governing.com study measuring pedestrian deaths per capita.
Between 2008 and 2012 the region has averaged 6.5 pedestrians killed per 100,000 residents, in line with cities like San Francisco, Tulsa and Birmingham Alabama, which doesn't seem that bad. The thing is, Dallas takes so many of its trips by personal vehicle that it's impossible for its pedestrian death numbers not to be low.
"Of course a place where 96 percent of our trips are by car in DFW, we're going to rank lowly just because there are so few pedestrians," Patrick Kennedy of Walkable DFW.
If a different metric is looked at, deaths per pedestrian rather than pedestrian deaths per capita, Dallas' numbers plummet, Kennedy says.
A few years ago, Kennedy compared the New York City metro area with DFW and found that, when looked at per pedestrian, people walking in Dallas were almost 52 times more likely to be hit and killed than people walking in New York.
The fatal pedestrian accidents that do happen in Dallas are concentrated in low-income neighborhoods. Pedestrians are four times more likely to be killed in areas with a poverty rate higher than 25 percent than they are in an area with a poverty rate of lower than 15 percent.
Lower incomes mean lower car ownership rates. Lower car ownership rates, combined with the lower density, poor access to public transit and wide high-speed limit roads common to less affluent areas lead to more pedestrian deaths.
"The speed to injury ratio is an exponential curve," Scott Bricker of national pedestrian advocacy group America Walks says, "at 20 miles an hour, effectively no one dies and at 40 miles an hour, 95 percent of [people struck by cars] die."
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Kennedy and Bricker agree that narrowing roads and lowering speed limits are things that could improve pedestrian safety in low-income areas at a relatively low cost. So would increasing the number of transit stops in areas with high numbers of pedestrians, Bricker says..
Efforts must also be made to keep housing affordable when amenities that benefit pedestrian safety come in. As areas become more attractive, rents naturally go up, Bricker says, so concessions must be made to prevent the most vulnerable pedestrians from being forced progressively closer to the fringes of the metro area.
Kennedy echoed Bricker's thoughts:
"We need to be cognizant of trying to allow the local neighborhood to capitalize on any new investment that happens in the area rather than just getting pushed away from it," he says.