We have recently been funded by NIH to conduct a four-year study of how urban design, the locations of alcohol selling establishments, night life districts and locations of services for the homeless influence pedestrian fatality risk. We will be conducting a location-based case-control study of all pedestrian fatalities that occurred in metropolitan areas of the U.S. in 2017 and 2018 and matched control locations. We will also be expanding the capabilities of our CANVAS tool for conducting nationwide virtual neighborhood audits via Google Street View. This research builds upon our work to understand how urban form and access to parks and green spaces influences physical activity patterns. Pedestrian safety is often cited as influencing engagement in pedestrian activity, particularly for older adults and for youth. As cities make urban design changes to promote walking there is a concern that pedestrian injuries will increase as more people take to the sidewalks. In prior work we piloted the use of virtual neighborhood audits in pedestrian injury research.
However, a closer look at the pedestrian fatality data shows that, in 2018, 38% of all fatally struck pedestrians, and 44% of those between the ages of 21-65 years, were under the influence of alcohol when they were struck, a prevalence that has been consistent since at least 1997. Cities across the U.S. are currently developing plans to prevent all pedestrian fatalities, yet few if any of these city plans even mention the role of alcohol use by pedestrians or describe action items to address this modifiable risk factor The most recent set of policy and design recommendations for reducing injuries among intoxicated pedestrians was a 1996 report from Monash University in Australia. Thus, part of our research will focus on the locations of, and urban design around, alcohol selling establishments and the locations of night life districts as risk factors for pedestrian fatality. We have developed methods to apply SatScan analyses to NETS business listing data, to automatically identify clusters of nightlife businesses.
In addition, individuals experiencing homelessness appear to be at particular risk for pedestrian injury and to comprise a large percentage of the pedestrians killed while under the influence of alcohol. The Department of Housing and Urban Development estimated that there were 552,830 people experiencing homelessness in the U.S. in 2018 and 35% of these individuals live in unsheltered locations, often close to traffic (e.g., under bridges and overpasses). The location of services for the homeless, and the pedestrian infrastructure around these services, appear to contribute to the risk of injury among those experiencing homelessness. Case-studies in the 1996 Monash University report highlight the importance of the location of homeless shelters and other services for the homeless near high volume road-ways as risk-factors for pedestrian injuries. Our study will be the first systematic investigation of the association between alcohol-involved pedestrian fatalities and locations of services for the homeless, and encampments, and informal areas where those experiencing homelessness shelter, and the first to study pedestrian infrastructure around providers of services for the homeless.
We will also be building a new version of our CANVAS tool for conducting virtual neighborhood audits using Google Street View. The new version will include: (a) automated sampling of locations for case-control studies; (b) image annotation tools; (c) linkage to neighborhood data via Application Program Interfaces (API) for Google Maps, Walkscore.com, and the US Census; (d) addition of scale development and spatial statistics tools and (d) integration with emerging online street/road visualization technologies and tools. The CANVAS tool is publicly available and has already been used in numerous completed [here, here, here] and ongoing studies.