Dangerous by design: Unsafe streets lead to dramatic increase in pedestrian fatalities

The Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia metro area ranks 47th out of the 101 largest U.S. metro areas for the rate of people killed by vehicles by walking. 277 people lost their lives while walking in our area between 2018 and 2022. Unfortunately we’re on an upward trajectory, with an increase of 0.49 in the long term trend in the fatality rate. 

Dangerous by Design chart

Pedestrian fatality rates have increased dramatically between 2010 – 2022. (image: Dangerous By Design 2024 report)

Every 2 years, Smart Growth America publishes their Dangerous By Design report. It’s a sobering reminder of just how dangerous it is to be a pedestrian in many U.S. cities. More than 20 people lose their lives in by being hit with a car while walking every day in this country. 

Although unsafe streets are dangerous for everyone, the fatality rates are highest for people who are Black and Native Americans, older adults, and people walking in low-income communities.

Pedestrian fatality rates are increasing across most of the country. But the situation is far from hopeless! Cities that are making big investments and policy changes are seeing significant improvements in street safety. Detroit has achieved a 40 percent decrease in the number of people hit and killed while walking since 2018. Buffalo, NY achieved a 50 percent decrease.

How did they do it? Detroit invested in residential traffic calming, enhanced streetscapes and shared streets, and built out the greenway network so residents have alternatives to walking and biking on high-speed streets with cars. Buffalo has genuinely prioritized safety over speed with their “slow streets program, taken a targeted approach to improve problematic areas and intersections, and built collaborative partnerships with advocacy groups and community members to increase bike and pedestrian activity while decreasing vehicle speeding rates. 

The Dangerous By Design report findings are timely as City Council prepares to vote on a budget that may dangerously under-invest in sidewalks, bike lanes, and safe street crossings! 

We’re deeply concerned that in this year’s budget cycle, Charlotte City Council is proposing to slash funding for sidewalks by more than 50% and cutting funding for Corridors of Opportunity, Center City transportation funding, and Strategic Investment Areas at a time when our pedestrian fatality rate is rising. Charlotte has an ambitious Vision Zero goal to end traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2040. The good news is that Detroit and Buffalo are making great progress. We could, too. But we won’t get there without the right investments today! 

View the full report here

Thanks for reading!

As a nonprofit, community support is essential for us to keep doing what we do — including providing free articles like this. If you found this article helpful, please consider supporting Sustain Charlotte.

Want to stay in the loop? Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and X.