Group Seeks Pedestrian-Friendly Roads Walking, biking and other forms of physical activity are central to a healthy life, and for many, the only way of getting from here to there. The problem is that our thoroughfares are often designed for cars and traffic flow. In 15 years, they've killed more than 70,000 people. Health groups and others have been pushing for a more walkable, bikeable world and states are realizing things need to change.
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Group Seeks Pedestrian-Friendly Roads

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Group Seeks Pedestrian-Friendly Roads

Group Seeks Pedestrian-Friendly Roads

Group Seeks Pedestrian-Friendly Roads

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Walking, biking and other forms of physical activity are central to a healthy life, and for many, the only way of getting from here to there. The problem is that our thoroughfares are often designed for cars and traffic flow. In 15 years, they've killed more than 70,000 people. Health groups and others have been pushing for a more walkable, bikeable world and states are realizing things need to change.

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

If you do a lot of walking, you should be careful if you're on the streets of Florida. The cities in that state top the list of the most dangerous for pedestrians, including Orlando, Tampa, Miami and Jacksonville. At the other end of the list, the safest cities for pedestrians include Seattle, Portland and Minneapolis-St Paul. These cities were ranked by a group called Transportation for America, based on federal and state records. This group is urging government officials to keep pedestrians in mind as they plan new roads and fix the old ones. NPR's Brenda Wilson reports.

BRENDA WILSON: It's a surface street. It's six lanes of fast moving, two-way traffic. There are restaurants and motels and convenience stores on either side. Behind those are apartments and homes, and the residents often take a short cut right across the six lanes to catch a bus. Barbara McCann of the National Coalition for Complete Streets, says this doesn't really encourage more people to use buses.

BARBARA MCCANN: We will see people standing on the side of the road next to a pole in the grass with no protection, no crossing. They've had to dash across a uncontrolled intersection to get to the bus. And it's something that people in their cars look at and say, I'm not going to do that.

WILSON: But not everyone has a choice about it.

CARINA POWER: I do have a car. It's just, you know, not working properly and I don't have the money to pay for it right now. Just getting across this street is a little dangerous.

WILSON: Twenty-four-year-old Carina Power has just made a mad dash across the six lanes.

POWER: There's a turning lane that can turn anytime as long as it's clear. So there's always cars coming from that way. And then the light can change at anytime up here, so there are cars coming that way. So you have to wait for the cars to stop, or wait for a chance for you to get across the street. And quite often, cars have had to stop just to let me cross, which is nice but it's also dangerous, because, you know, if they decide not to stop I'm either standing in the middle of the street or I'm hit.

WILSON: This slightly mad scene in Hybla Valley is typical of suburban strips throughout the country that were built just after World War II. Virginia's Assistant Secretary of Transportation, Nicholas Donohue, says these areas were not as developed then.

NICHOLAS DONOHUE: They were built in an area where there really wasn't much development. And for better or worse the thought was made that people wouldn't really be walking there in the future. And as the areas, particularly northern Virginia and other parts of the state, have started to become more suburban and urban, we realized that's not the right way to go about this.

WILSON: Since 2004, he says, state officials decided all new transportation projects have to plan for pedestrians and bicyclists. Dr. Linda Degutis, an associate professor at Yale University, says health officials have also played a key role in pushing for these changes and not just to prevent accidents.

LINDA DEGUTIS, Host:

Brenda Wilson, NPR News.

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