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    Are the Streets Near You Dangerous by Design? A new report out from the National Complete Streets Coalition, with support from AARP, ranks the 100 most-populous metro areas based on how deadly they are for pedestrians. Illinois is right in the middle of the pack ranking 32 out of the 50 (1 being most dangerous, 50 least dangerous) states so we have some work to do.

    Key recommendations are below. Chicago rolled out Vision Zero in 2017, with a goal to eliminate fatalities and serious injuries by 2026. What about other Illinois communities – are you acting on any of these?

    State or local actions

    1. Prioritize projects that will benefit those who suffer disproportionately. Some groups, including people of color and people walking in lower-income communities, are disproportionately struck and killed while walking. To address this, decision-makers should prioritize the projects that would benefit these vulnerable users. For example, the Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, when deciding which projects to fund in their selection process, awards extra points to projects that will improve safety for people walking or biking in certain disadvantaged areas.1

    2. Embrace the flexibility provided by FHWA to design safer streets. New design guidance from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in 2016 gave states and cities wide latitude to design streets to best suit local needs and rolled back old regulations that treated all streets and roads like highways. This cleared the way for states, metro areas, and local communities to use federal dollars to design safer streets, yet many states falsely claim that federal guidelines continue to restrict innovative street design.

    3. Design roads to reduce speeds wherever possible. For people on foot, the likelihood of surviving a crash decreases rapidly as speeds increase past 30 mph. The federal government already knows that excessive speed is a deadly problem in our nation’s transportation system—the National Transportation Safety Board recently acknowledged this in a powerful report to FHWA.2 The current practice of measuring how fast most traffic travels on a road and then setting speed limits so that only 15 percent of the drivers are exceeding that limit results in artificially high speed limits—and unsafe streets for everyone. Rather than designing roads that encourage speeding and then relying upon enforcement, states and cities should design roads to encourage safer, slower driving speeds in the first place.

    4. Pass actionable Complete Streets policies that lay the groundwork for implementation. The National Complete Streets Coalition’s policy framework provides guidance on how to craft a strong policy that sets up clear next steps to embed Complete Streets in routine transportation planning.3

    5. Stop referring to pedestrian fatalities as unavoidable “accidents.” City and state leaders should set an example by replacing the word “accident” with “crash” when discussing these preventable deaths. It’s a small change that can make a big difference. Read more on page 22.

    6. Test out bold, creative approaches to safer street design. Poor street design is neither an insurmountable nor expensive problem. Some cities have found success by testing out low-cost, short-term interventions to create safer streets and then measuring the results to gauge the impact of their projects to work toward permanent solutions.4

     

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