Study finds Metro Detroit pedestrians face higher risk

May 26, 2014

A new study suggests that Detroit is the most dangerous city in the Midwest for pedestrians.

The study comes from the National Complete Streets Coalition, a non-profit that advocates modifying streetscapes to accommodate more than cars.

It calculated a “Pedestrian Danger Index” that ranked Detroit the 11th most-dangerous metro area in the country—and the most dangerous outside the South.

The report attributes that danger to roads designed and engineered almost exclusively for cars.

Liz Treutel, with the group Transportation for Michigan, says communities can reduce the dangers by re-shaping roadways with all kinds of users in mind.

“Safe crosswalks, lane markings, and things like that are all parts of a complete streets policy,” Treutel says. “This might differ from area to area, but the general idea is to make the streets safe for all users, and all modes of transportation.”

Treutel admits this might be a hard sell in much of southeast Michigan. “The car culture is really an issue in Metro Detroit, and I think that is part of the reason we see the Pedestrian Danger Index so high,” she says.

But Metro Detroit might also have an advantage: its many broad, multi-lane roads could easily accommodate some of the suggested measures, like sidewalk buffer zones and bike lanes, at a relatively low cost.

Treutel says the report also shows how certain groups are much more vulnerable to pedestrian fatalities than others.

In southeast Michigan, that’s especially true for African Americans—who the study found are 134% more likely than whites to die while commuting on foot.

There were a total of 713 pedestrian deaths in Metro Detroit from 2003-2012.

The city of Detroit in particular has had a spate of hit-and-run incidents in recent months.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy has just charged 2 men with crimes related to a hit-and-run that critically injured an 8-year-old girl.