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Seattle Times news librarian Gene Balk crunches the numbers

March 27, 2013 at 6:30 AM

How safe is Seattle for pedestrians?

Photo: Michal Osmenda/Wikimedia

Photo: Michal Osmenda/Wikimedia

We don’t tend to think of walking around our neighborhood as a dangerous activity, but that presumption may have been thrown into question after the fatal crash on Monday in Northeast Seattle.  And the fact is, pedestrian injuries and fatalities are all too common.  According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 46,000 pedestrians were killed in the United States between 2001 and 2010.

But how dangerous is Seattle for pedestrians compared with other areas in the United States?

Transportation for America, a transportation reform coalition, published a report in 2011 comparing the relative safety for pedestrians in 52 U.S. metropolitan areas.  In their analysis, three factors were weighed to determine overall safety: total pedestrian deaths; average annual rate of pedestrian deaths; and the percentage of the population who walk to work, which was used as an indicator of the amount of walking in an area.

From these data points, a measure called the Pedestrian Danger Index was calculated to rank the metro areas; a lower index score indicates a greater level of safety for pedestrians.

Seattle’s index score of 35.9 ranked as the seventh safest.  Boston had the lowest index score, while the most dangerous metro area studied was Orlando, Fla., with an index score of 255.4.


 10 safest metro areas for pedestrians


Rank Metro area Ped. deaths 2000-2009 Avg. annual ped. deaths per 100,000 % Walk commuters Pedestrian Danger Index
1 Boston 483 1.1 5.0% 21.6
2 Cleveland 139 0.7 2.2% 29.4
3 Pittsburgh 269 1.1 3.7% 30.4
4 New York 3,485 1.9 6.1% 30.4
5 Rochester, NY 122 1.2 3.4% 35.1
6 Minneapolis 254 0.8 2.3% 35.1
7 Seattle 398 1.2 3.5% 35.9
8 Portland, OR 243 1.2 3.2% 36.3
9 Virginia Beach 170 1 2.8% 37.0
10 Milwaukee 165 1.1 2.9% 37.3

Source: Transportation for America, 2011

While Seattle might be comparatively safe, pedestrian-involved collisions are still far too numerous here.   In the city of Seattle, there were 4,824 pedestrian-involved collisions between 2001 and 2011, according to the Seattle Department of Transportation.  There were 398 in 2011, which was a drop from the 517 pedestrian-involved collisions in the city in 2010.  Nationally, the trend seems to be moving in the wrong direction.  NHTSA data show that after four consecutive years of declines, the 4,280 pedestrians killed in 2010 represented a 4 percent increase from 2009.

Share your thoughts.  Do you think walking in Seattle is safe?  Are there certain intersections, streets, or neighborhoods that you find particularly dangerous?  What should the city be doing to improve the situation?  And how much of the problem is due to inattentive driving and walking — are cellphones and other mobile devices to blame?  Take our poll, and continue the discussion in the comments section.



Comments | More in Government Data | Topics: transportation, walking


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