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Columbia Ranked Safest City in Missouri for Preventable Pedestrian Deaths

December 31, 2009

Congratulations to Ian Thomas, America Walks Board Member, and The PedNet Coalition, America Walks Organizational Member – your efforts in Columbia, MO, have ranked you among the safest communities in the nation for pedestrians! But the country as a whole scored poorly with dangerously-designed streets responsible for more than 5,000 preventable deaths every year. 

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. An update of the 2004 Mean Streets report, Dangerous by Design was released by Transportation for America (www.T4America.org) and the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership.

The report showed that Columbia had the lowest Pedestrian Danger Index in the state and was well below the national average.  Missouri overall ranked slightly higher than the national average. The report also examined how states and localities are spending federal money that could be used to make the most dangerous streets safer, and found that Columbia, again, ranks first in Missouri, spending $5.10 per person.

“Ten years of PedNet advocacy with strong support from the City of Columbia seem to be paying off.  Columbia is investing much more than the national average in pedestrian safety, and the investment is yielding handsome returns, with high rates of walking and low pedestrian fatalities. But there is still a lot of work to do around the country before walking becomes the norm for short journeys – with its clear benefits for public health, local economies, and the environment,” said Ian Thomas, Executive Director of the PedNet Coalition.

An example of local investments include the “complete streets” design standards that are now used for construction of new roadways in Columbia.  The City Council passed the design standards in 2004 and this was the first such policy in Missouri.  The soon to be opened section of Providence Road north of Vandiver, built using the standards, features a five foot wide sidewalk on one side, an eight foot pedway on the other, and striped bike lanes.  The completion of this road allows those who live in north Columbia a safe way to access the city center.

Mayor Darwin Hindman remarked, “We have worked hard in Columbia to improve pedestrian safety and increase walking, with policies like our safer street design standards and federal funding for the GetAbout Columbia project.  This is a continuing effort and we hope to maintain our status as a model community for Missouri and the nation.”

The report authors note that most pedestrian deaths are preventable, because they occur on streets that are designed to encourage speeding traffic and lack safe sidewalks, crosswalks, pedestrian signals and other protections. Fixing these problems is a matter of will on the part of state departments of transportation and local communities, and of shifting spending priorities, the report concludes.

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