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FYI Guy

Seattle Times news librarian Gene Balk crunches the numbers

April 18, 2014 at 5:32 PM

Report: Seattle ranks No. 2 for cyclist and pedestrian safety

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Considering the amount of behind-the-wheel texting and mobile phone calling we see every day in this city, the following may come as a surprise: Among large U.S. cities, Seattle has the second-lowest fatality rate for pedestrians and cyclists, according to a new report.

The 2014 Benchmarking Report, released this week by the Washington, D.C.-based Alliance for Biking & Walking, ranks the combined pedestrian and cyclist fatality rates for 52 large cities. It holds some surprises, as well.

But first, a look under the hood: Researchers used census data on the number of people who walk or bike to work as indicators of the overall levels of walking and biking in each of the cities studied. The fatality rates were then calculated by dividing the number of pedestrian and cyclist deaths by the number of pedestrian and bicycle commuters.

Seattle came away with the second-lowest fatality rate for pedestrians, and the eight-lowest for cyclists, for an overall No. 2 ranking.

An unmistakable conclusion from the data:

When it comes to urban walking and cycling, there is safety in numbers. That is, the greater the number of people who walk and bike, the lower the rate of fatalities.

In four of the five cities with the lowest fatality rates — including Seattle — the percentage of people who walk or bike to work is among the highest in the nation.  In Seattle, nearly one out of every eight workers is either a pedestrian or bicycle commuter; the 52-city average is just one out of every 20 workers.

The outlier is Colorado Springs, which has the fourth-lowest fatality rate, but also a relatively low level of pedestrian and bike commuting.

A bike commuter makes his way across the I-90 bridge last December. (Photo by Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)

In all of the deadliest cities, there are very few pedestrians and very few cyclists. In Jacksonville, Fla., which has the highest fatality rate, less than 2 percent of people walk or bike to work.

And the fatality numbers are striking: in Jacksonville, pedestrians are killed at a rate 15 times higher, and cyclists 19 times higher, than in Seattle.

While Seattle’s stats may be envious, more can be done to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety here. Monday morning, a 17-year-old girl walking to a bus stop in the Pinehurst neighborhood was killed by the driver of a pickup as she crossed the street. Neighbors said they had asked the city for a marked crosswalk there but were turned down.

Comments | More in Reports | Topics: Cycling, pedestrians, safety

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