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More sidewalks, bike lanes needed to reduce pedestrian deaths: study

Roads such as Roosevelt Boulevard in Philadelphia and U.S. 130 in Burlington County are death traps for pedestrians because the wide, multilane highways encourage fast driving and give non-motorists few places to cross safely.

Roads such as Roosevelt Boulevard in Philadelphia and U.S. 130 in Burlington County are death traps for pedestrians because the wide, multilane highways encourage fast driving and give non-motorists few places to cross safely.

A new study by advocates for pedestrians, bicyclists and transit riders, released Tuesday and based on federal data, called for more sidewalks, bike lanes and other features to make travel safer on such dangerous highways.

The report cited the 47,741 pedestrian deaths in the past decade as "the equivalent of a jumbo jet full of passengers crashing roughly every month." The report was prepared by Transportation For America, a Washington, D.C.-based coalition of transportation, environmental, public health and other pro-transit groups.

Children, the elderly, and the poor are more likely than other groups to be killed while walking, the report said.

Based on a "pedestrian danger index" developed by the report's researchers, metro areas were ranked by safe walkability. Orlando, Fla., was deemed the most dangerous metro area for pedestrians, followed by three other Florida regions: Tampa-St. Petersburg, Jacksonville, and Miami.

The Philadelphia region was ranked 39th among the 52 large metro areas.

Although the number of pedestrians killed each year in America has dropped by half since 1980, the report's authors argued that states "have largely ignored pedestrian safety from a budgetary perspective," allocating only 1.5 percent of available federal funds to projects that retrofit dangerous roads or create alternative routes for non-motorists.

Experts cite several factors in the decline in pedestrian fatalities, which have mirrored a decline in overall traffic fatalities: a crackdown on drunk driving, safer vehicles, and safer crosswalks and better signals.

The 11-county Philadelphia metropolitan statistical area recorded 965 pedestrian deaths in the 2000-2009 period.

Pennsylvania had 1,611 pedestrian deaths from 2000 to 2009, about 11 percent of all traffic fatalities in the state. New Jersey had 1,514 pedestrian deaths in that 10-year period, about 21 percent of all traffic fatalities.

Nationwide, pedestrian deaths accounted for 11.6 percent of the 411,574 traffic deaths during the 10-year period.

The most dangerous local roads for pedestrians are Roosevelt Boulevard in Philadelphia and Route 130 in South Jersey.

Roosevelt Boulevard recorded 20 pedestrian deaths between 2006 and 2010, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. There are more than 500 crashes each year on the boulevard, and though pedestrians are involved only in about 5 percent of the crashes, they represent a third of fatalities there.

Just last week, a Tacony man, Joshua Hess, 33, was struck and killed as he tried to cross at Welsh Road. A month earlier, Giselle Moya, a 28-year-old Rhawnhurst woman who was eight months pregnant, was struck and killed by a northbound motorcyclist as she attempted to cross the boulevard near Lexington Avenue.

PennDot is working this summer to make the boulevard safer for pedestrians, adding stop lights, removing mid-block crosswalks, building pedestrian islands, and adding electronic speed alert signs, said PennDot spokeswoman Jenny Robinson.

"It's a very challenging roadway for pedestrians, no doubt about it," said Robinson, who cited the high volume of traffic, the speed of the cars, and the many lanes of traffic that pedestrians have to cross to reach safety.

PennDot is working with Mayor Nutter's office on a pedestrian and bicycle safety education and enforcement program for the city, beginning in July.

Route 130 through Burlington County, with the same type of hazards as the Roosevelt Boulevard, accounted for 10 pedestrian deaths in New Jersey from 2007 to 2009, making it the most dangerous highway in the state for pedestrians, according to the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, which analyzed federal traffic fatality data.

"The speeds are so high, and the number of crosswalks are very limited, so it's hard for pedestrians to cross safely," said Matthew Norris, of the Tri-State Campaign.

Morris noted that New Jersey Department of Transportation has moved to focus more efforts on pedestrian safety in recent years. The state department this week received the highest ranking among more than 200 states and communities that have adopted formal "complete streets" policies to promote safety for non-motorists.

The report on pedestrian deaths, released Tuesday, called for more such "complete streets" efforts by states, cities and the federal government to build and renovate roads to make them safer.

Features should include such things as sidewalks, crosswalks, pedestrian refuges, street lighting, and school and public bus shelters, the report said.

The report's authors also urged Congress, which is preparing a new transportation-funding bill, to keep dedicated funding for bike and pedestrian facilities. Highway proponents in Congress have proposed doing away with those funds.

The report, along with an interactive map that pinpoints the location of pedestrian fatalities, is available on the Internet at