U.S. DOT Launches “Everyone Is a Pedestrian” Campaign

Image: NHTSA

UPDATED 5:43 p.m. with more details from NHTSA on eligible grant activities.

Yesterday, U.S. DOT launched a new campaign called “Everyone Is a Pedestrian,” including $2 million in grants that will be awarded to as many as six focus cities for pedestrian safety education and enforcement initiatives. While $2 million is peanuts in the grand scheme of the nation’s pedestrian safety needs, it’s notable that Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is focusing on walking so early in his tenure.

“Whether you live in a city or a small town, and whether you drive a car, take the bus or ride a train, at some point in the day, everyone is a pedestrian,” said Foxx in a statement. “We all have a reason to support pedestrian safety, and now, everyone has new tools to help make a difference.”

The feds have invited 22 focus cities, where pedestrian crashes are especially prevalent, to apply for the funds. Up to six will be selected to receive grants. NHTSA says the total number of awards and the funding level of each award will depend on the quality of the proposals submitted for consideration.

Specifics about the program are still in short supply. NHTSA hasn’t yet responded to a request for detail about what the $2 million will be used for. Let’s hope the safety messages focus mainly on what drivers can do to prevent injuries and deaths.

Grants will support the implementation of education and enforcement efforts in the cities’ Pedestrian Safety Action Plans, and so the final determination of what the money gets used for will largely depend on the solutions identified by the cities themselves. “Common problems include speeding and drivers not yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks,” the agency said. NHTSA anticipates possible grant activities to include things like the following:

  • A comprehensive education and enforcement activity that supports active infrastructure improvement projects.  For example, having enforcement and education activities in areas surrounding repainted crosswalks or newly-installed mid-block crosswalks.
  • Improved data and analysis of pedestrian crashes to identify trends, high risk populations and high crash locations.
  • Development and implementation of an education campaign focusing on the high risk groups identified through crash analysis.
  • Deployment of enforcement operations in high crash locations (corridors and/or intersections).
  • Evaluation of the countermeasures used to reduce pedestrian deaths and injuries.

Some of the online resources that accompany the pedestrian safety campaign have conventional messages with “safety tips” for both drivers and pedestrians. But there is one resource that looks like it’s a cut above the rest.

NHTSA released an excellent walkability checklist [PDF], encouraging parents to walk around their neighborhood with their kids, take note of obstacles to safe walking, and take action to remediate them. The checklist focuses on the quality of sidewalks and street crossings, and it includes a significant focus on driver behavior. If the $2 million goes toward taking action on checklist items like new crosswalks, traffic calming, increased driver enforcement, and school street safety programs, it would be money well spent.

The 22 focus cities are: Phoenix, AZ; Los Angeles, CA; San Diego, CA; San Francisco, CA; Stockton, CA; Washington, DC; Fort Lauderdale, FL; Jacksonville, FL; Miami, FL; Orlando, FL Atlanta, GA; Louisville, KY; New Orleans, LA; St. Louis, MO; Newark, NJ; New York City, NY; Tulsa, OK; Philadelphia, PA; Dallas, TX; Houston, TX; Ft Worth, TX; and San Antonio, TX.

The grant program and safety campaign were announced at the same time that NHTSA released new pedestrian safety statistics for 2011 [PDF]. “The 4,432 pedestrian fatalities in 2011 were an increase of 3 percent from 2010, but a decrease of 7 percent from 2002,” NHTSA reported. “In 2011, pedestrian deaths accounted for 14 percent of all traffic fatalities, and made up 3 percent of all the people injured in traffic crashes.” In 2010, pedestrians accounted for 13 percent of traffic fatalities. For the two years before that, they accounted for 12 percent, up from 11 percent every year between 2002 and 2007.

17 thoughts on U.S. DOT Launches “Everyone Is a Pedestrian” Campaign

  1. The notion that “everyone is a pedestrian” may be true in cities and small towns, but as hard as it is to imagine (or accept), this simply isn’t the case in the most auto-centric suburbs. Sorry, but walking from your front door to your driveway doesn’t count, and neither does walking across the parking lot from your car to the McDonald’s.

  2. Are you suggesting people should board their cars by sliding down a pole (e.g. firemen) or sliding down a chute (e.g. UFO‘s moonbase) ? In my driving days my car was usually half a block to a block away from my front door. Secretary Foxx’s people have come up with a neat tagline – “Everyone Is a Pedestrian” – that people can grok. Bravo.

  3. Here in Louisville, we just need new sidewalks. Many thoroughfares and side streets here don’t have them. In many cases, people are walking along the side of sometimes busy, sometimes narrow roads. It’s no wonder Louisville made this list.

  4. It will “count” when you are run down by a car in the parking lot. Everyone is at some point a pedestrian… even people in the suburbs.

  5. I’d agree that this can be the case in those places without sidewalks, etc. Though it’s also somewhat true because it’s a place without anywhere dedicated to pedestrians. There’s a cause/effect loop here. It sucks when you want to go for a jog but need to find somewhere else to go have it, and then you aren’t seen being out there.

  6. Education and enforcement is nice, but sensible roadway design that puts automobiles in their place (at the bottom) is the only way we’ll make a dent in U.S. traffic fatality massacres.

  7. Even in suburbia, everyone walks – when you drive to a strip mall, you have to walk across the lot to the store.

    But the bigger picture is that pedestrian deaths are preventable, and the federal government is finally moving to protect vulnerable street users. Plenty of federal dollars go into protecting the safety of truckers on the road, for other motorists too. But now, we can bring walkers into the conversation too!

  8. I applaud USDOT for targeting pedestrian safety in US cities. However, a better way to have done this would be to make it open to ALL cities over a certain size (say 200,000) and then give extra consideration to those “focus cities” in the evaluation. Just because these 22 cities have done a miserable job planning for pedestrians doesn’t mean that they should be rewarded with funding to fix the problems that they created. Rewarding failure simply begets more failure. Many cities such as mine (Rochester, NY) are fine walking cities on paper, but we still suffer from many of the same concerns as others. Give my Police Dept $100,000 to cover overtime costs related to enforcing yield to pedestrian laws, and we too will save lives and reduce injuries.

  9. I have always noticed that people who mainly drive walk like scared deer. They rush across crosswalks, often yield to cars even when they have the right of way, and generally act timidly as a pedestrian.

  10. Recently, many pedestrians in my city are failing to look left, right, and left again before crossing. Pedestrians seem to be crossing as they wish, on a red-hand sign, and on a green light for opposing traffic. Drivers are aware of pedestrians, but it seems like pedestrians aren’t aware of drivers. Respect is a two-way street. Watch out for each other.

  11. Absolutely! This happens in my city of Chicago as well, where pedestrians don’t understand that safety is everyone’s responsibility! Us drivers wear seatbelts and pay for cars with all kinds of safety features to protected ourselves, but pedestrians don’t do the same! That’s why I’m advocating for helmet laws and licensing of pedestrians.

  12. Jeff’s two examples were a bit too generalized, but I see where he is coming from. Anyone who walks is a pedestrian. But people who largely fall under the stated categories are not getting nearly the same experience as someone who spends considerable time walking around a city. Without doing so, you won’t routinely have to deal with things like pushing a button just to cross the street (but only after waiting, sometimes a minute or more), being cut off or harassed for not stepping back and allowing the driver to make the unobstructed right turn at an intersection (I’ve both experienced and seen this happen), not to mention all the exhaust, noise and other potentially-stressful/dangerous situations such as crossing a busy driveway, etc.

    Having lived, biked and walked in an urban environment for a few years now, I can relate to the sentiments of the urban dwellers who have a problem with streets that are designed for motorists to get where they need to as quick as possible and give little or no consideration to other traffic users. When I was growing up in the suburbs, I didn’t see things this way at all.

  13. in Norfolk I like to play chicken. ill put my aviator shades on and pretend i don’t see them. most eventually think twice about jaywalking – except in the hood. There they just dont give a …

  14. As a pedestrian and driver, I can see it from both sides. Pedestrians need to keep their heads up, and not text or read their smart phones while walking across a busy intersection (or while walking at all). Of course that goes for drivers too. Drivers need to give the right of way to pedestrians, especially in an intersection. Some drivers really want to make that right turn, but they have to wait for pedestrians to cross the street. Be patient and let the pedestrians cross in peace without inching closer to the walkers as they’re trying to get to the other side. Drivers…don’t honk at pedestrians because you want them to walk faster. Mutual respect is key for everyone on the road, drivers, bike riders and pedestrians.

  15. Instead of having all the “Push Button Walk Sign Buttons” at each intersection, why cant they all automatically just have the walk sign go on when the light turns green like it USE to be. A lot of money spent for something that the city dosent need. Have them only for the blind to let them know its ok to cross.

  16. Whaaa? The reason that motorists have to adhere to more stringent safety laws is because 1) it’s the car that introduces danger into the situation–people don’t choose to be bipedal, but they do choose to drive 2) even the Supreme Court agrees that driving is a privilege, not a right. Remember, the pedestrian can’t hurt you, but you can hurt the pedestrian.

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