NM Most Deadly State for Walkers; ABQ 2nd Most Deadly Metro

The 2022 “Dangerous by Design” annual compilation of pedestrian fatality data has been released by the non-profit advocacy group Smart Growth America. That data continues to illustrate the spike in walking deaths nationwide, with our state and city at the gruesome forefront of that spike.

New Mexico not only leads in annual walking deaths per 100,000 between 2016 and the last final reporting year of 2020, its 3.76/100k is a whopping .54/100k more than 2nd place Florida at 3.22. Only those two states and South Carolina have >3.0. The Land of Enchantment certainly isn’t for those trying to walk anywhere near its roads.

Albuquerque is one of only two metropolitan areas above 4.0/100k for the same time period, edged out by, you guessed it, a Florida metro (Daytona Beach) 4.25 to 4.19. No other metro is above 4/100k. That’s despite a larger than average drop in fatalities in ABQ during the pandemic year of 2020.

This news isn’t new: Smart Growth data over the years has consistently shown our state and city at/near the top of such statistics, and Better Burque has for a few years now brought up both this data and some of the personal stories behind the numbers.

So what are we going to do about it?

Not much, most likely. History would indicate that the State, in particular, is not gonna do a damn thing. One finds it worth noting that the Governor’s 2022 “Call” for legislation at this year’s 30-day session included absolutely nothing about this issue. Despite being flush with oil & gas cash, the Governor and Legislature authored zero bills toward reducing pedestrian fatalities, and the up for reelection Governor has focused on checks to taxpayers (because…gas prices) and rebates for electric vehicles (notably not e-bikes).

New Mexico has no Complete Streets program, reflective of both lack of a legislative champion for non-motorized travel and a deeply, deeply entrenched driver-centric NMDOT. I’m gonna bet, and very much hope I lose, that the upcoming 60-day legislative session also sees zero bills addressing pedestrian safety in this state ranking absolutely most deadly for those trying to walk places.

The City’s death figures are, of course, even higher, but one might be a tiny bit more optimistic about efforts to address the issue here in Somos Unidos (formerly “The Duke City”). We discussed speed cameras here yesterday, but there’s more than mere enforcement in progress (albeit very, very slowly). To illustrate that effort, here’s one of the many, many cool, yet disturbing, graphs/maps in the Smart Growth America report:

Anyone who has looked into ABQ’s pedestrian fatality problem is not surprised by placement of the dots above indicating location of a pedestrian death. Still, while dots are sprinkled just about all over the area, it’s the straight and straightish lines where the problem certainly most lies.

Two roadways stand out above, Coors Blvd. on the Westside, a State stroad (NM-45) that is actually undergoing some study toward increasing its safety despite it being a State stroad, and Central Avenue (both East Central through the International District and out towards Tramway, and West Central at/near Coors).

East Central in particular has had some recommendations move toward implementation from 2020 studies done of the Louisiana Blvd. to Eubank Blvd. and Eubank Blvd. to Juan Tabo Blvd. stretches. Here are the recommendations made for the deadly Louisiana to Eubank stretch:

Walk or ride a bike out to this stretch of Central today, and you won’t see much of the above. To take one example, the HAWK signal to go along with opening of the new International District library branch is just now in planning discussions. But at least there are these recommendations.

What is needed, desperately, now is FULL implementation of ALL recommendations above as quickly as possible. Not doing so given the latest “Dangerous by Design” report is to, again, acknowledge the problem yet fail to address in any meaningful way our single highest concentration of walking deaths. Not doing so will surely end up putting us atop “Dangerous by Design” 2023, 2024, and beyond.

Central Avenue, particularly East Central, is the #1 reason were unfortunately #1 as a state and #2 as a metropolitan area in pedestrian deaths. While the problem is truly nationwide, East Central is a relatively small and localized fix that can do so much toward addressing this notable local and state dishonor.

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