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Pedestrian safety study ranks Washington area in the middle

One of the most densely populated areas of the country -- New York, Northern New Jersey and Long Island -- ranked as one of the least dangerous, 50th out of the 52 areas rated by the danger index standard.

By an entirely different measure applied in the study, that region ranked first in the percentage of fatal accidents that took the life of a pedestrian. More than 31 percent of its traffic fatalities involved pedestrian deaths. The Washington area, at 21 percent, ranked eighth.

Stewart Schwartz, executive director for the Coalition for Smarter Growth, said the pedestrian study adds weight to the argument for integrating automobile traffic, mass transit, bicycling and walking in a master transportation plan.

"Often the pedestrian is the forgotten figure in transportation planning," he said, pointing to such areas as Rockville Pike and Route 1 that were designed to accommodate cars. "If you look at these pedestrian deaths, you'll find that a lot of them are along commercial corridors."

Elinor Ginzler of AARP said that pedestrians older than 65 are particularly vulnerable.

"They are two-thirds more likely to be killed while walking than someone under 65," Ginzler said. Forty-eight percent of the elderly who responded to an AARP survey said they lived in an area without sidewalks, she said.

"People will outlive their driving years by seven to 10 years," she said. "Fifty percent of them said they would walk more if they had a hospitable environment."

Staff writer Matt Zapotosky contributed to this report.

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