Are Urban Arterials and Pedestrian Safety Mutually Exclusive?

While looking at a pedestrian traffic accident map for Baltimore the other day, one obvious thing stood out;   injuries and fatalities are collected around arterial streets. Besides the obvious reasons for caring about this issue, pedestrian crashes usually make up the majority of traffic related fatalities, and while a fender bender is often easy to walk away from, pedestrian traffic injuries are often life changing events.

So, for non-transporation planners, arterial streets are usually 4 lane roads which accommodate through traffic – usually downtown to suburb commuters. Traffic speeds and volumes tend to be higher on these streets, and while many of Baltimore’s arterials double as neighborhood “Main Streets”, like Greenmount Ave., the character of these corridors often leans towards automobiles rather than comfortable, pedestrian environments. In the suburbs, arterial often connect subdivisions or chain stores with little pedestrian activity, so it’s not a problem to design these streets for maximum throughput. In urban areas, there is a greater chance for conflict between diverse land uses, pedestrians, bicycles, and transit vehicles all vying for space.  Things get messy.