Still Too Many Pedestrians Killed in the Twin Cities

person crossing the street

However you slice and dice the numbers, too many people are still dying just trying to cross the street on foot or in wheelchairs in the U.S., in Minnesota, and in the Twin Cities. The national Dangerous by Design 2014  report about pedestrian fatalities was released today by Smart Growth America and the National Complete Streets Coalition. From their release:

In the decade from 2003 through 2012, more than 47,000 people died while walking on our streets. That is 16 times the number of people who died in natural disasters during in the same ten years, but without the corresponding level of urgency.

In 2012, pedestrians accounted for nearly 15 percent of all traffic deaths, up 6 percent from 2011 and representing a five-year high.

And unsurprisingly for the home of Lake Wobegon, where everyone is above average, one of the local newspapers touted the area’s standing in the report as “safer than most” for pedestrians. Out of 51 large metro areas (based on Metropolitan Statistical Areas), Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI ranked 46 for its “Pedestrian Danger Index.” So yeah, 45 other large metros had higher Pedestrian Danger Index numbers than ours, or you might say we’re the sixth safest, according to this report. This index calculates the number of pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 people divided by the percentage of commuters who walk to work.

Let’s look at the numbers in a slightly different, if off-the-cuff, way. The state’s Department of Public Safety helpfully publishes some crash statistics by county, including a three-year report of pedestrian and bicyclist crash data by county for 2010-2012. For this I looked at the seven-county region, which is the basis for regional planning done by the Metropolitan Council and includes seven of the eight counties in the MnDOT Metro District (minus Chisago County). In comparison, the Metropolitan Statistical Area used in this national report includes 16 counties for Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI.

Pedestrian Fatalities 2010-2012 in 7-County Region

Pedestrian FatalitiesAll Traffic FatalitiesPed % of Total
Region Total6532220.2%
Region % of MN56.0%27.4%-
State Total1161,1749.9%
Data source: MN Dept of Public Safety, Office of Traffic Safety


From 2010 through 2012, drivers in the seven-county region killed 65 pedestrians, who represented 56 percent of the total number of pedestrians killed in Minnesota. When looking at all traffic fatalities in these seven Twin Cities counties, pedestrians account for slightly over 20 percent of all traffic deaths. But pedestrians don’t account for over 20 percent of all trips here.

We know that commute trips, which is what this national report used in its index, make up only a fraction of all the trips we make while living our lives. The Met Council’s 2010 Travel Behavior Inventory showed that commutes to work are only 17% of why we travel. This study is done every 10 years by the Council to find out more about travel in the region. According to this study, 6% of all trips in the area are done by walking. Yet pedestrians account for 20% of our traffic fatalities.

Minnesota has a Toward Zero Deaths program, which is based on the idea that “even one traffic-related death on our roads is unacceptable.” As noted in Dangerous by Design 2014, cities such as New York City and San Francisco have started to use a “Vision Zero” approach to improving pedestrian safety. We might be among the safer metros in this national report, but the Twin Cities still have too many people dying just trying to cross the street. When will zero pedestrian deaths become our mission?

Heidi Schallberg

About Heidi Schallberg

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Heidi Schallberg tweets @laflaneuse more than she posts here. Her posts reflect only her opinion and not those of any organization.