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The safest (and most dangerous) cities for pedestrians

New York leads major U.S. cities as the safest for pedestrians, followed by Seattle, Boston and San Francisco. But Europe and Asia have America beat.
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Written by Andrew Nusca on

Which cities are the safest to walk in?

And which are the most dangerous?

According to the latest New York City Pedestrian Safety and Action Plan (.pdf), released in August 2010 by NYC's Department of Transportation, within the United States, the safest city to walk in is -- you guessed it -- New York.

In fact, city officials are so confident in the safety of their (legendarily bumper-to-bumper, smoggy, loud, crowded) streets that they say NYC is almost as safe for the pedestrian as Paris, London and Amsterdam -- and better than Copenhagen, poster child for green urbanites everywhere.

From the report, a look at New York in the context of other major U.S. cities, plus a few international highlights:

  • Stockholm: 1.23 fatalities per 100,000 residents
  • Berlin: 1.60
  • Tokyo: 1.70
  • Hong Kong: 2.10
  • London: 2.69
  • Paris: 3.09
  • Amsterdam: 3.36
  • Portland (Oregon): 3.39
  • New York City: 3.49
  • Copenhagen: 3.92
  • Seattle: 4.12
  • Boston: 4.24
  • San Francisco: 4.33
  • Milwaukee: 5.68
  • Washington, D.C.: 5.74
  • Chicago: 5.89
  • Philadelphia: 6.22
  • Baltimore: 7.54
  • Los Angeles: 7.64
  • Detroit: 10.31
  • Atlanta: 10.97

If you're a visual type, designer Amanda Buck recently made a related infographic for GOOD.

The statistics hint at the interplay in each city of pedestrians and motorists: in the case of New York, it's no surprise that pedestrians rule; in the case of Los Angeles, the opposite is true -- but there are enough pedestrians to warrant danger for folks on foot.

Despite its domestic supremacy, New York is vying to cut its fatality rate further -- in half, actually. And it's not just because one fatal accident is too many, either.

City officials say it's a matter of public health:

Crashes...affect New Yorkers on a scale similar to cerebrovascular disease (strokes, hypertension) and influenza/pneumonia.

It's also a matter of fiscal concern:

NYCDOT estimates the annual cost of all traffic crashes in New York City at $4.29 billion annually, about 1% of the Gross City Product. The annual cost for pedestriancrashes alone is estimated at $1.38 billion.

But ultimately, it all fits into the idea of a more sustainable city: facilitate pedestrian activity, and watch your traffic jams and overcrowded mass transit system problems melt away. (Fingers crossed.)

Photo: Tokyo's famous pedestrian scramble, Shibuya Crossing.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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