A few decades back a trip to Europe was a more dangerous experience if you were driving on the roads, biking or walking in European cities. But as Joe Cortright who contributes to Strong Towns and runs the City Observatory notes that paradigm has changed. Meanwhile the pedestrian fatality rate on roads in the United States has risen by 50 percent in just one decade, from 4,109 dying in 2009 to 6,227 dying in 2018.
While Europeans have high rates of vehicle ownership, pedestrian fatality rates are lower, declining 36 percent in the last eight years from 8,342 deaths to 5,320.
Cortright asks~if more people walk in Europe than the United States, why aren’t fatality rates the same or more for pedestrians?
As Cortwright observes: “It’s worth noting that this trend is occurring even though walking is far more common in Europe, streets are generally narrower, and in older cities, there aren’t sidewalks, but pedestrians share the roadway with cars. Despite these factors, Europe now has a lower pedestrian death toll per capita than the U.S.”
The pedestrian death rate in the United States per million population is 75 percent more than in Europe. European cities have narrower streets with narrow or non-existent sidewalks and slower street speeds due to enforcement or design.
Europe also has the same uptake with smartphones and other items that are viewed as providing pedestrian distraction, yet less pedestrians die.
So is it the existing narrower streets, better road design, slower speeds, and better driver behaviour that is responsible for less pedestrian fatalities? And if those factors are so successful, what do we need to duplicate in North America?