November 20, 2009

“Dangerous By Design” Report Lists St. Louis in Top 25 Most Dangerous Cities for Pedestrians

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Transportation for America has released a report called “Dangerous by Design” that looks at pedestrian deaths vs. spending on pedestrian amenities and ranks cities across the U.S. Following the report’s release, T4A met with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who promises that “the DOT Safety Council is going to look at this report and work with advocacy groups to ensure our streets are as safe as possible.”

Before we see how St. Louis fared, what does T4A think is causing problems?

Over the last several decades, most of the business of daily life has shifted from Main Streets to state highways that have grown wider and wider over time…the pressure to move as many cars through these areas as quickly as possible has led transportation departments to squeeze in as many lanes as they can, while designing out sidewalks, crosswalks and crossing signals, on-street parking, and even street trees in order to remove impediments to speeding traffic.

As a result, more than half of fatal vehicle crashes occurred on these wide, high capacity and high-speed thoroughfares. Though dangerous, these arterials are all but unavoidable because they are the trunk lines carrying most local traffic and supporting nearly all the commercial activity essential to daily life.

(emphasis mine). Pedestrian safety is a transit issue as well – for many people the transit experience can become uncomfortable, inconvenient, and even dangerous if the pedestrian access in their area is not sufficient and safe. Details after the jump.

So how does St. Louis fare? Based on 72 pedestrian fatalities between 2007-2008, and a 1.7% percentage of workers walking to work, St. Louis is number 21 (just behind Kansas City) for pedestrian danger. Take a look at T4A’s Missouri Fact Sheet for more details (opens a .pdf file!).

The federal government is already working to improve pedestrian safety near transit stops: I found a proposed FTA rule change on that would essentially enlarge the area around transit stations that would qualify for federal funding for bike- and pedestrian-related improvements (the “catchment” area). You can check it out on and submit a comment either for or against the proposed change.

What’s your walking experience around the St. Louis region?

5 thoughts on ““Dangerous By Design” Report Lists St. Louis in Top 25 Most Dangerous Cities for Pedestrians”

  1. Cheryl says:

    There are just so many bad pedestrian situations around St. Louis, you can’t begin to mention them. But here are three.

    1) Walking from the Brentwood Metrolink station to Dierbergs and points west. I have heard the story of how the stores wanted to discourage Metrolink users from parking in their lot. But this situation is just ridiculous. You are forced to walk a quarter mile just to reach a point opposite of the fence where you got off the train. And of course, there is no sidewalk. You are just walking in the traffic.

    2) Clayton Road at Lindbergh. Getting to the bus shelter on Clayton Road is a joke. Requires a hike through grass or mud and down a somewhat steep grade. The joke is that someone is almost always at this shelter waiting for the bus.

    3) Dorsett Road crossing under I-270. People get off the bus on the east side of I-270 and walk under the bridge in an extremely dangerous situation to reach jobs at the restaurants on the west side. There is no sidewalk, and anyone could be killed trying to make this crossing. At least a new intersection is planned here. I think there will be a sidewalk in the middle of it.

  2. I actually got hit earlier this year while crossing Washington Avenue at 10th to transfer busses. I had the right of way, I was in the cross walk, I had the little light-up walky guy signal, and I was well into the intersection before a couple of folks came around the corner and hit me. I landed on my elbows on their hood but was fine. (They, of course, sped off, and the police report I filed yielded nothing.)

    I think a lot of the issue, beyond design, is attitude. In the two short weeks I’ve spent here in Hamtramck, I keep finding myself amazed…. By my St. Louis training I just automatically wait for cars to go first at the intersections every time, but here they usually wave to let *you* cross. When I’m driving, I find that people on foot seem to expect that I’ll let them go first (which of course I do), even if they are crossing against traffic in the middle of the street. When I lived in Chicago, well…. The drivers there were aggressive, but they were used to bold pedestrians and to having to react to pedestrians. Not that every St. Louis driver is anti-pedestrian, and it’s not LA bad…. But my experience was that a good many StL drivers expected the right of way in their cars, whether they had it or not.

    More on the design side of the issue: One of the first things anyone said to me when I was learning to drive in St. Louis was, “When you’re in North City, make sure you avoid the outermost lane–that’s the sidewalk here.” It was true, too–I walked in the road all the time there, due to the intermittent nature or outright lack of sidewalks. The city touts its 50 50 program, which will split the cost of sidewalk maintenance with you, but in low income communities that have been severely neglected by the city itself for decades, that model just doesn’t work. There’s got to be a way for the Near North Side to get the maintenance the city has been denying it for dozens of years, other than giving Paul McKee $400 mil outta the general fund. Not confident that’ll happen with the current city gov, or even that the big McKee bailout will net tangible improvements any time soon for N StL, but I do know that were I still in town I’d still be walking in the gutter.

  3. RTBones says:

    Walking is not something generally done in St. Louis unless you happen to live in the city itself. Sidewalks are either not there at all, or dont really go anywhere. Here’s a couple more:

    1) McDonnell Blvd between Campus Parkway and Lindbergh. There are pieces of sidewalk, some of which are in bad repair. You simply cannot walk the length of Mcdonnell Blvd.

    2) Dunn Rd at Brown Rd or Utz. Bus stops are on the shoulder of of the road, no sidewalk connections.

    3) Lindbergh Blvd at Page. Bus stops near the center of a cloverleaf?

  4. NN says:

    Cheryl – All are great examples! I completely agree with you.

  5. GetReal says:

    If you think a 1/4 mile walk to go from Brentwood Metro stop to points west sounds bad, try walking from the homes on the north side of the New 64 between Hanley & Brentwood Blvd to destinations like Trader Joes, Dierbergs or Target on the south side of the New 64. Destinations only 500 feet away requires walking a total of 1.8 miles each way. This is the area that Metro & MoDOT said will be well served by their infrastructure improvements and expenditures of scarce public funds… what total BS.

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