PHOTO: A new report urges changes to make intersections and roads safer for all users. Photo credit: Carl Wycoff/Flickr
Two Tennessee cities are near the top of the latest rankings of the deadliest large cities in the nation for pedestrians. The Memphis metro area is listed as the fifth most dangerous and Nashville as the 15th in the report from the National Complete Streets Coalition. Director Roger Millar says many of the pedestrian deaths and injuries are happening at intersections that are dangerous by design. “They’ve been engineered and operated for speeding traffic with little or no provision for the safety of people walking or biking or using public transit,” he explains. Overall, Tennessee ranked as the 11th most dangerous state for pedestrians, with 800 deaths in the decade from 2003 to 2012. Nationally, there were more than 47,000 pedestrian deaths during that time, along with nearly 700,000 injuries. The report suggests adding sidewalks and bike lanes, reducing crossing distances and improving crosswalks to make the roads safe for all users. The strategy is similar to what’s known as universal design, which aims to produce buildings, products and environments that are inherently accessible to everyone, says Sue Lowery chairwoman of STAGES for Independent Living in Chattanooga. “There’s a certain aspect of it that’s planning for the future,” she says. “You may not need the single floor now, but at some point if you suddenly find yourself in a wheelchair or with a walker and unable to get up and down steps, you realize that that single-level design is so critical to that.” There is a great need for such housing that’s affordable, and Lowery says her organization is currently involved with two residential projects that will use universal design. “It’s much easier to build that into it then to go back and retrofit,” she explains. “If we can put it in in the beginning and think about that from the kitchen and the way cabinets and stove tops are accessible, to the doorknobs, sink heights, everything that we try to design into a project from the get-go.” In all, there are seven principles of universal design, including low physical effort, tolerance for error and simple and intuitive use.