Landscape Architecture Coalition: We Need More Walkable Streets

A new report from an American Society of Landscape Architects-affiliated coalition notes that streets have gotten deadlier in the past decade, in large part because they’re not as safe for pedestrians as they could be.

An industry coalition led by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) says a dangerous trend is on the rise, and it wants that trend to take a step in the other direction.

Smart Growth America, which focuses on improving infrastructure around the country, recently released a study highlighting the scope of dangers that pedestrians face due to metropolitan areas not being built for walking. The study was produced in tandem with its subsidiary, the National Complete Streets Coalition.

And the numbers in the 2019 edition of Dangerous By Design are stark: Between 2008 and 2017, 49,340 pedestrians died in crashes, an equivalent of a person every hour and 46 minutes. And the number is rising, with 2016 and 2017 the two deadliest years on record.

“It’s the equivalent of a jumbo jet full of people crashing—with no survivors—every single month,” the report said.

While deaths for passengers in motor vehicles declined by more than 6 percent over the same period, pedestrian deaths increased by 35.4 percent. Travel by vehicle also increased during the decade-long period, while walking as a percentage of travel was basically flat.

The report argues that this is a result of poor design decisions that discourage walkability, some of which happen at the policy level.

“This is happening because our streets, which we designed for the movement of vehicles, have not changed. In fact, we are continuing to design streets that are dangerous for all people,” the report said. “Furthermore, federal and state policies, standards, and funding mechanisms still produce roads that prioritize high speeds for cars over safety for all people.”

The report recommends specific solutions, including the passage of policies requiring planning organizations to more consistently include streets as part of their urban-design policies, as well as to stronger funding for such efforts.

In a news release, ASLA CEO and Executive Vice President Nancy Somerville made the case that this was a place where, beyond policy changes, its members could play an important role.

“Strong policies are needed that will allow landscape architects to continue to put good street design to work to reduce unnecessary risks and make sure our transportation systems equitably serve all Americans,” she said. “As cities begin the process of rebuilding and reimagining our decaying urban infrastructure, pedestrian safety must be among our highest priorities.”

(biosdi/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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