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Who is to blame for California's high pedestrian fatality rate?

Recently, university researchers conducted a study on pedestrian accidents and fatalities in U.S. cities. For residents of Los Angeles and other large California cities, the results of the study probably did not come as a surprise.

The study found that the rate of pedestrian and bicycle accident fatalities in Los Angeles is much higher than the national average. Nationwide, pedestrians account for just over 11 percent of all traffic deaths. In Los Angeles, pedestrians make up about one-third of car accident fatalities.

The rate of bicycle accident deaths is similarly higher than the national average. In Los Angeles, bicyclists are killed in about 3 percent of all crash deaths. Nationally, that number is 1.7 percent.

So what is the reason for the higher number of pedestrian accident deaths in California? Well, that depends on who you ask.

According to Michael Sivak, one of the study's researchers, the reason that there are more pedestrian accidents in Los Angeles is simple: there are more pedestrians than in other parts of the country. "This is a matter of exposure," he wrote. "When you look at large urban areas you have a wider mix of road users."

But Eric Bruins of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition says that there is a more actionable cause. It is the lack of safe infrastructure that prioritizes the safety of bikers and walkers above the efficiency of motor vehicle traffic. In order to minimize pedestrian fatalities, he says, Los Angeles and other cities need to make safe walking and bicycling a priority.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "In LA and NY, famous last words: 'I'm walkin' here'," Paul Whitefield, Oct. 2, 2012

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