Metro Atlanta ranks 10th most dangerous among major U.S. metro areas, a new report concludes.

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 safe they are for walking. Dangerous by Design was released by two national advocacy groups, Transportation for America (T4America.org) and the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership, with local support from Atlanta-based PEDS and the Livable Communities Coalition. A copy of the full report is available upon request.

In just the 5 core metro Atlanta counties, three pedestrians are struck by drivers every day.  In 2008 there were 60 pedestrian fatalities and more than 1,000 crash-related pedestrian injuries.

The authors of Dangerous by Design and local advocates note that most pedestrian deaths are preventable. They occur on streets that are designed to encourage high speed traffic with few or no protections for pedestrians, cyclists, or people who ride public transportation.  The report also examined how states and localities spend federal money that could be used to make streets safer.  Although metro Atlanta ranked 10th most dangerous among 52 major metropolitan areas, the total spent on pedestrian projects per person each year was just $2.39.

“Metro Atlanta ranks poorly because we are not investing enough in sidewalks and safe crossings for people on foot,” said Sally Flocks, president and CEO of PEDS, metro Atlanta’s pedestrian advocacy group.  “To reduce these preventable fatalities, transportation agencies and elected officials need to change their spending priorities.”

Some communities in metro Atlanta and across the country are beginning to reverse the dangerous 50-year legacy of auto-centric policies.  Many are retrofitting or building new roads as “complete streets” – streets that safely accommodate pedestrians, cyclists, and public transportation riders as well as motorists.  Examples in metro Atlanta include streets in new mixed-use developments like Atlantic Station and Glenwood Park, redesigned town centers like Suwanee’s, historic centers like Marietta Square, and a number of road diets and sidewalk projects in the region’s community improvement districts.

Streets designed only for cars abound throughout the region, however, and many policies and practices still inadvertently promote dangerous streets.  “Here in metro Atlanta, we could be saving more lives and encouraging more residents to engage in healthy levels of activity by investing in sidewalks, crosswalks, traffic calming and other safety measures,” said Ray Christman, executive director of the Livable Communities Coalition.  “However, in many cases we continue to be hampered by federal, state, regional and local policies that have the unintended effect of making our streets dangerous for anyone not in a car. The good news is, when we make our streets safer, we make communities more walkable and livable.”

In Georgia only 1.7 percent of available federal transportation funds are directed toward pedestrian projects, although pedestrians account for nearly 10 percent of all traffic deaths.

James Corless, director of Transportation for America, one of the national sponsors of the report, said, “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.”

For more information visit www.peds.org.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.