One of the critical public health challenges related to community design, particularly transportation planning, is the interaction between motorized and nonmotorized transportation.
Whether transportation corridors are designed to allow safe uses by cars, bicyclists, and pedestrians can have a great impact on the number and extent of injuries that occur along these corridors. In addition to the direct health benefits of injury prevention, better transportation design can offer the indirect benefits of safer and more inviting areas for physical activity, such as walking and biking. Areas for such activities create a wider selection of nonmotorized transportation choices, which in turn improves air quality by reducing transportation-related pollution.
Car crashes now claim more than 30,000 lives each year in the United States, a number that has declined from about 50,000 per year over the last four decades. Automobile crashes are one of the leading cause of death among people 1-34 years of age, accounting for 3.2 million nonfatal injuries annually. Rates of automobile fatalities and injuries per driver and per mile driven have decreased substantially, because of safer cars and roads, laws that discourage drunk driving, and other measures, but the absolute toll of automobile crashes remains high. Planning land use strategies that reduce reliance on the automobile, while creating safe places for biking and walking, could help further reduce car crashes and increase physical activity.
Bicycles and Pedestrians
In the year 2009, 630 cyclists and 4,092 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes within the United States. Currently, many Americans view bicycling and walking within their communities as unsafe because of the lack of sidewalks, crosswalks, bicycle paths, as well as the presence of environmental barriers.
A report to the President from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education (2000) included an objective to--
"Enable communities to develop and promote the use of safe, well-maintained, and close-to-home sidewalks, crosswalks, bicycle paths, trails, parks, recreational facilities, and community designs featuring mixed-use development and a connected grid of streets."
Encouraging the development of such features within a community could greatly improve the safety, physical health, and mental health of the people living within that community.
For more information about unintentional injury involving automobiles, bicycles, and pedestrians, refer to the following resources:
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control
NCIPC prevents death and disability from nonoccupational injuries, including those that are unintentional and those that result from violence.
National Bicycle Safety Network (NBSN)
In co-leadership with CDC, the National Bicycle Safety Network (NBSN) was established to define an agenda for enhancing bicycle safety. NBSN strives to reduce the number of bicycle injuries by promoting bicycle safety through public education, information sharing, and appropriate environmental changes.
National Strategies for Advancing Bicycle Safety
Report written in conjunction with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Highway Administration. Includes goals, strategies, and short-term and long-term actions that can be taken to reduce injury and mortality associated with bicycle-related incidents.
National Strategies for Advancing Child Pedestrian Safety The mission of the National Strategies for Advancing Child Pedestrian Safety is to enhance the well-being and safety of children by reducing their risk of injury while walking, increasing their physical activity level, and creating a more pedestrian-friendly environment.
Additional information on injury prevention and related topics can be found in the Additional Resources section.
ReferencesCenters for Disease Control and Prevention. Achievements in public health, 1990-1999 motor vehicle safety: A 20th century public health achievement. MMWR 1999;48:369-74. Available from URL: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm4818a1.htm
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Web-based injury statistics query and reporting system (WISQARS). Available from URL: http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Traffic safety facts 2009. A compilation of motor vehicle crash data from the fatality analysis reporting system and the general estimates system. DOT HS 811 402. Washington: NHTSA; 2011.