Texas cities aren’t really built for pedestrians. They’re not really set up for cyclists or bus-riders or people who take the limited-use commuter rail services in Dallas, Houston, and Austin, either—but new data explains exactly how bad it is to be a pedestrian in the four largest cities in Texas, and it’s pretty bad.
The data comes courtesy of Smart Growth America, which ranked the most and least pedestrian-friendly cities—and states—in the US “Pedestrian-friendly,” in these terms, is mostly speaking in terms of safety. The report uses a “Pedestrian Danger Index (PDI) that gives an indication of the likelihood of a person on foot being hit by a vehicle and killed.”
In terms of states, Texas clocks in at #10 for the most dangerous places in the U.S. for pedestrians. In the ten-year period between 2003-2012, the study found that 34,107 people were killed in car accidents, and 4,192 of them were pedestrians—good for 12.3%. That’s actually the third largest number of pedestrian deaths in that period in the country, but the size of Texas’ population explains the tenth-place ranking: Florida, the most dangerous state in the country for pedestrians by a wide margin, had over 5,000 deaths in that same period, despite having 9 million fewer people.
The state-by-state numbers are interesting (all of the five most dangerous cities for pedestrians in the US are in the South), and Texas’s four largest cities place in the country’s fifty most dangerous list.
Unsurprisingly, our state’s two largest metro areas—Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston-Sugarland-Baytown—are also the least friendly to pedestrians. That fits with the stereotypes of those cities, certainly, and makes a fair amount of sense: metro areas that cover that much distance are going to offer less infrastructure for people who are getting around without cars, and Houston is the most dangerous city in Texas by that standard (good for #7 overall). An average of more than 100 pedestrians were killed every year between 2003-2012 in Houston.
In Dallas, which hits at #12, that number was 90, while in San Antonio (#18) it was just over 37, and in Austin (#24) it was 25. The raw numbers, of course, don’t tell the whole story, and looking at the number of pedestrian deaths per 100,000 to adjust for population reveals some other information: by that criteria, San Antonio takes the top spot with 1.86 deaths per 100,000 residents, while Houston has 1.70 in that same number.
Leaving danger aside, maybe the most interesting statistic revealed by the Smart Growth America report is the percentage of the population that actually does commute by walking. In the extremely car-centric Dallas and Houston areas, the percentage of pedestrians in the population is very low—1.2 and 1.4%, respectively, which are among the lowest numbers in the country (by contrast, in New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island area, 6.2% of the population gets around by foot—and if New York City had been isolated, that percentage probably would have been higher). San Antonio has the largest percentage of pedestrians in Texas, meanwhile, with 1.9% of the population traveling the city on foot. Austin comes in second place, with 1.8%, which is perhaps interesting given that Austin’s geographic size is significantly smaller than San Antonio’s.