Safety of Marin streets gets spotlight

By Mark Prado, IJ reporter

Marin's efforts to promote bicycle and pedestrian programs took the national stage yesterday with the release of an annual pedestrian safety report.

Supervisor Steve Kinsey was summoned to Washington, D.C., by the Surface Transportation Policy Project to discuss the county's effort to promote children walking and biking to school.

Yesterday, the transportation project released its Mean Streets 2004 study, which ranked every metropolitan area in the United States on the basis of pedestrian safety.

The report shows walking is the most dangerous way for Americans to travel, although safety has improved in the Bay Area over the past 10 years.

"Being a pedestrian is the worst way to travel," Kinsey said during a national conference call from Washington, D.C.

The report concludes that while pedestrian deaths have declined by 12.8 percent in the last decade, the number of pedestrians has dropped even faster.

The authors speculate that fewer people are walking because it has become more dangerous. Looking at the death rate per mile of travel in 2001, the report found that 1.3 people died in cars for every 100 million miles traveled, compared to 20.1 people who were walking.

The study also compiled a "pedestrian danger index" for the past 10 years, based on the rate of pedestrian deaths relative to the amount that people walk in a given metropolitan area.

The San Francisco-San Jose-Oakland metropolitan area - which includes Marin - saw a 12.9 percent decline in pedestrian danger since 1994.

Marin serves as a national model for its Safe Routes to School program, which aims to get schoolchildren out of cars and safely walking or biking to school.

"There is a true passion about pedestrian issues in Marin," Kinsey said, as he addressed the national media.

Kinsey also said the Metropolitan Transportation Commission - the Bay Area's transportation planning agency - will spend $200 million on pedestrian and bicycle improvements in the next 25 years.

Kinsey also said Measure A, the recent voter-approved half-cent sales tax measure, has $36.5 million going to pedestrian and bike projects over 20 years.

"So much of our transportation system is designed for cars and only cars," said Anne Canby, the president of the Surface Transportation Policy Project, which advocates for balanced transportation.

The report found that the 9,746 walkers who died in the United States in 2002-03 were more likely to be killed on busy streets without crosswalks. Nearly 40 percent died where crosswalks were not available.

"Wide roads, speeding traffic and a lack of crosswalks or sidewalks can make walking a deadly activity," the report said. "There simply are not enough pedestrian facilities."

Contact Mark Prado via e-mail at mprado@marinij.com; IJ wire services contributed to this report.


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