Jul 14, 2022 - News

Tampa Bay among worst in nation for pedestrian deaths

 Illustration of skull decoration hanging from a car’s rear view mirror.
Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Be careful where you step. The Tampa-St. Pete-Clearwater metro area is the fourth most dangerous place in the United States to take a walk.

Driving the news: That's according to a new report from urban development advocacy group Smart Growth America, which ranked the nation's metros by pedestrian deaths per 100,000 residents between 2016 and 2020.

  • Tampa Bay is up four depressing spots from last year. You're more likely to get run down here — 3.5 pedestrian deaths per 100,000 people — than in traffic hellscapes like Miami (14th), Atlanta (27th), Los Angeles (32nd) and Dallas (44th).

The big picture: Seven of the top 20 most dangerous metros are in Florida, a state that has long endorsed planning policy that prioritized auto-travel speed and efficiency above bicycle and pedestrian safety.

Zoom out: Nationwide, during the first year of COVID, nearly 18 pedestrians per day were killed by machines, for a total of 6,529 deaths, a 5% increase from 2019 and a 59% increase over 2009.

What they're saying: "This is an epidemic, and unsafe road design is a major culprit," Calvin Gladney, president and CEO of Smart Growth America, told the Miami Herald. "We need to improve roads so that no one has to risk their life when crossing the street."

Flashback: Henry David Thoreau predicted as much 160 years ago, when he wrote that "man-traps and other engines" would be invented "to confine men to the public road" and render the pedestrian obsolete.

  • "Let us improve our opportunities, then, before the evil days come," he wrote in the Atlantic in 1862, 24 years before Benz invented the Motorwagen.

What's next: Hillsborough County voters will have a chance in November to pass a one-cent sales tax expected to raise $342 million its first year for safety-minded transportation projects — including extending the downtown Tampa streetcar line north to Tampa Heights.

  • 45% of the proceeds would go to the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority and the rest would be divided between Hillsborough County and the cities of Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City.
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