Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, pedestrian fatalities have grown to record levels. In 2020, they were up roughly 5% from the previous year, and pedestrian deaths per vehicle miles traveled was up 21% in that same year. Preliminary data from 2021 suggests that this trend is only continuing.
Originally, experts believed that the opposite would happen: they asserted that pedestrian deaths were going to decrease due to reduced driving during lockdown and stay-at-home orders, and increased numbers of people working from home. Instead the emptier roads are permitting people to drive faster, so the official narrative has pivoted to blame accidents on increased anxiety levels, increased alcohol consumption, and the general fraying of social norms.
This narrative was repeated recently in The New York Times, in a piece titled “Pedestrian Deaths Spike in U.S. as Reckless Driving Surges.” So, today on Upzoned, host Abby Kinney and cohost Chuck Marohn take this piece and “upzone” it, analyzing it through the Strong Towns lens. Here’s a hint: The problem has a lot less to do with driver error and a lot more to do with bad street design.