Houston is a dangerous city for those traveling on foot. That's the conclusion of a new report from the National Complete Streets Coalition and the AARP. The report lists Houston-Sugarland-Baytown as the seventh most dangerous metro area in the country for pedestrian deaths. That's the highest ranking ever for the Houston area on the list, after ranking 9th in 2011 and 8th in 2009. Overall, Texas ranked as the 10th most dangerous state for pedestrians.
One of the biggest factors in Houston's high ranking is rapid growth spurred by our strong local economy, according to Juanita Jimenez-Soto from AARP Houston. "Economically we are a good place to come and set up shop or live," she tells KTRH. "There are a lot of jobs here, and change is good...it's just that sometimes there is a little bad that comes with the good." In this case, the "bad" is the increased vehicle traffic on roads that were poorly designed in the first place. "Unfortunately the streets were not designed for us, for you and for me, to be able to walk from here to there," says Jimenez-Soto. She points out that most pedestrian fatalities happen at dangerous intersections. "Basically these are intersections that were really designed primarily for a vehicle, and not for someone walking or riding a bike."
The report points out that there have been 47,000 pedestrian deaths nationwide in the last decade, 16 times more than fatalities from natural disasters. It pushes lawmakers to pass a national standard for pedestrian safety. "What's known as a Complete Street Policy and Design," says Jimenez-Soto. "That includes adding sidewalks and bike lanes, reducing crossing distances and improving crosswalks." The bottom line, according to Jimenez-Soto, is to build roads with pedestrians as well as drivers in mind. "They need to take people into consideration when they're designing these roads," she says.