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Study: Walmart, Fast Food Sites Pose High Risk to Pedestrians

Saving a few bucks may cost you your life.

Walmarts, fast food restaurants and discount stores like Family Dollar are hot spots for pedestrian crashes, a new study shows.

Building on existing evidence that low-income neighborhoods are more dangerous for walkers, the new study by the Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida [PDF] found that certain kinds of retail stores in low-income areas amplify the danger to pedestrians.

For example, in Florida, Census-designated low-income areas — containing roughly 1,500 residents — with Walmarts had 1.8 more pedestrian crashes over a four-year period on average than low-income areas without.

For each fast food restaurant in a low-income block group, there was an addition 0.69 pedestrian crashes every four years on average. Fast-food joints such as McDonald's, Wendy's, Taco Bell were also associated with an increased risk of severe injuries.

Finally, within one mile of discount stores like Family Dollar, Kmart or Big Lots there was an average of 0.26 more pedestrian crashes and an increased risk of severe injury.

Pei-Sung Lin, author of the study, of the University of South Florida.
Pei-Sung Lin, author of the study, of the University of South Florida.
Pei-Sung Lin, author of the study, of the University of South Florida.

Convenience stores and barber shops were also associated with increased risk. But the correlation did not apply to all types of quasi-public gathering spaces.

There was no additional risk associated with schools, churches, bars or hotels, the study found.

Pei-Sung Lin, the author of the study, told Streetsblog that features such as drive-throughs and large parking lots where cars encounter many pedestrians increase the opportunity for conflicts.

"We need to pay special attention in that area to how pedestrians cross the street and we need to make sure we have adequate pedestrian facilities," he said.

In addition to safe crossings, special attention should be paid to street lighting, said Lin. One of the findings in the study was that the presence of street lights that provided adequate visibility was very important to preventing pedestrian deaths.

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