South Carolina just made another unfortunate top 10 list.
It is the 10th most dangerous state in America for pedestrians.
And the study done by the advocacy group Smart by Design shows that it doesn’t have to be that way.
Yes, distracted drivers are a problem. As are drunken drivers. We’ve seen that on Hilton Head Island, where an experienced bicyclist who was doing everything right was hit and killed by a driver charged with being drunk.
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But the new study shows that in many ways, the roads are unsafe for pedestrians because they were designed that way.
It talks a lot about how road design concentrates on moving vehicles, period. It says the concentration has been on an expected “level of service” for motorists, such as not having to sit through several light changes. And it says that has come at the expense of pedestrians.
Smart by Design says:
“Over the last decade (2008 through 2017, the most recent year with data available), drivers struck and killed 49,340 people walking in communities large and small across the U.S. (1,144 of them in South Carolina.)
“To put that into perspective, it’s the equivalent of a jumbo jet full of people crashing — with no survivors — every month.
“Walking has increased only marginally during that time and driving has increased about eight percent. But pedestrian fatalities have increased 35 percent.”
Here in Beaufort County, which has been deluged with population and tourism growth for half a century, the emphasis has been on moving cars rapidly in and out of the big cul-de-sac we call Hilton Head.
That’s fine. But now we need to concentrate on moving pedestrians and bicyclists around more safely.
Do it by design, some of it on a drawing board.
For example, why would we design the Islanders’ Beach Park strictly for vehicle access? People on foot pour into it from the stacks and stacks of nearby vacation rental condos and timeshares. A crosswalk is there for them to cross Folly Field Road, but there is no sidewalk for them in the parking lot.
Hilton Head has done a lot to make its intersections safer for pedestrians, and it has done a lot to give cyclists and walkers miles and miles of pathways to use.
But there is more to do. And it needs to be a top priority.
That, too, is by design.