Study ranks most dangerous places statewide

Study finds good news too: since 1997, more than a dozen local citizen groups have formed to address problems; state legislature has approved related laws.

provided by Surface Transportation Policy Project

report released in July, 2002, finds that pedestrian deaths in California increased by 5 percent – from 689 fatalities to 721 – from 2000 to 2001. The survey ranks Solano, Sacramento, Los Angeles, Contra Costa and San Joaquin counties as the state's five most dangerous. Cities that rank high on the survey's “Pedestrian Danger Index” include Vallejo, Modesto, Stockton, Long Beach, Richmond, San Jose, Santa Ana and Bakersfield; San Francisco tops the charts for the highest incident rate as well as the highest percentage of all traffic fatalities that are pedestrians.

    “Pedestrian Safety in California: Five Years of Progress and Pitfalls,” co-released by the nonprofit Surface Transportation Policy Project (STPP) and the newly formed California Walks, a pedestrian advocacy coalition of 14 local groups, says that regions characterized by rapid growth – especially those in the booming Central Valley and Southern California – are among the most dangerous places for pedestrians. The report also finds that Latinos and African Americans are most at risk from pedestrian-vehicle collisions, in numbers that are disproportionate to their share of the overall state population.

    “Crossing the street in California shouldn't be a matter of life and death,” said James Corless, California Director for the Surface Transportation Policy Project. “As California's population gets increasingly diverse, safer streets and more walkable communities will become increasingly important for everyone.”

    “As local officials decide how to spend their existing transportation money, pedestrians should get a fair share,” explained Zac Wald of California Walks. “Our top priority should be making our streets safer for everyone.”

    The report also points to dozens of towns and cities around the state that have begun implementing newer pedestrian safety measures to reduce fatalities and injuries, often in conjunction with urban and suburban revitalization efforts. The report praises over a dozen innovative efforts to improve pedestrian safety at the local level in California – all which have happened in the last five years – including a new citywide pedestrian safety program in Oakland, traffic calming programs in San Jose and Sacramento, conversion of one way streets back into two way streets in San Jose (slowing traffic and providing a more business and pedestrian-friendly environment), an innovative advertising campaign in San Francisco, as well as additional efforts underway in San Diego, Santa Ana and Pasadena.

    The groups, however, do point out several significant “pitfalls” and threats to pedestrians everywhere in the state. One is the massive campaign to allow the new Segway scooters on sidewalks by defining the machines as “pedestrians.” Many safety advocates believe the scooters behave more like vehicles than pedestrians and thus belong in the street or at least in bike lanes. The company that manufactures the Segway scooters has succeeded in passing new laws in 20 states that define the scooters as pedestrians. The report also scolds California for pursuing policies that advocate the removal of crosswalks as well as general traffic engineering practices that restrict pedestrian crossings and movements and generally undercount and undervalue the benefits and necessities of walking.

    The Surface Transportation Policy Project is a coalition of more than 200 professional, environmental and community organizations working for a balanced transportation policy that protects neighborhoods, promotes social equity and makes communities more livable.Ê A full copy of the California pedestrian safety report is available on line at