It’s nice to see some attention to pedestrian safety, but this article gets a failing grade for math literacy. Here’s the first sentence:

If you walk in the city, you’re most at risk in Capitol Hill, the University District and downtown.

The evidence? Well, the highest number of pedestrian collisions occurs in those neighborhoods. Not the highest rate, mind you– the highest number.

By this reasoning, Iraq is much safer than the United States. After all Iraq has only about 2,000 deaths a day, while the US has 6,000 or so. Never mind that the US has 11 times as many people.

Just so, there are more pedestrians on the streets of Capitol Hill, the U-district, and downtown than in other neighborhoods. So you would expect a higher number of collisions there (even though the rate is probably lower). In fact, the number of pedestrian collisions in those neighborhoods may actually be evidence that those places are safer for pedestrians—so much so that people feel comfortable walking in great numbers.

Of course, we really need to know how many pedestrian collisions there are per mile walked. But we don’t get this information. What we do get is claims like this:

You’re more likely to be struck by a car in daylight and good weather.

Really?

  • Um, I doubt it. Most pedestrian accidents happen in daylight and in good weather is because—wait for it—more people walk in daylight and good weather. And they walk farther. It’s not more dangerous to walk during the day, it’s less dangerous.

    Here’s another nugget, this one from me: More bicycle accidents happen on bike trails than on interstate freeways. So you’re “more likely” to have a bike accident on a trail…

    Bad trails. Bad. We should fix them at once.

    Okay, okay. There is some good stuff in the article. It’s worth reading; and it’s definitely worth considering how we can engineer our cities to make walking safer. But it’s frustrating to see the limited data on pedestrian safety turned on its head.

    If Seattle wants to make walking safer, it should not spend the bulk of its resources fixing pedestrian infrastructure in, say, Capitol Hill. Just the opposite. We should try to make the rest of the city more like Capitol Hill: safe and comfortable enough for pedestrians so that a walking culture flourishes.