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Local Streets Riskier, Study Finds

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From 1994 to 2003, according to the report, the Richmond-Petersburg metropolitan area saw the second-highest jump in "pedestrian danger" among the metro areas studied. Richmond is 70 percent more dangerous than it was a decade ago, the report found, when measuring the number of pedestrian deaths per 100,000 people.

Overall, Richmond ranked 27th most dangerous for pedestrians. In 2002 and 2003, 27 pedestrians were killed on Richmond-area streets and sidewalks.

"We've got a serious safety problem," says Trip Pollard, director of the land and community project at the Southern Environmental Law Center. "We've kind of, unfortunately, gotten used to pedestrian fatalities and traffic fatalities."

Pollard says the biggest problem is that the Richmond area lacks enough safe places for people to walk. Sidewalks and crosswalks are inadequate, he says, and road designs often don't take pedestrians into account.

Bill Farrar, a spokesman for the city's public works department, agrees that the city's streets are dangerous. "On average, a pedestrian is struck by a motor vehicle every other day" in Richmond, he says. "We are definitely concerned about that."

The city has a series of public service announcements addressing pedestrian safety, Farrar says, but his department doesn't have the money to air them regularly.

Farrar says the culprit is usually a cell phone or some other distraction that causes the motorist to take his or her eyes off the road.

But pedestrians need to be careful too. "Most of the accidents involve someone crossing at mid-block," Farrar says.

Farther east, things are different, the study finds. From 1994 to 2003 in the Norfolk-Virginia Beach metro area, pedestrian safety improved by 13 percent. — Scott Bass

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