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Sharing the Road: Safer Streets Means Safe for Everyone - NRDC

As they incorporate equity into transportation planning, a number of U.S. cities are making room for bicyclists, pedestrians, scooters, and wheelchairs in every part of town.

The intersection of Story and King roads in East San Jose, California has a lethal reputation.

“There are a lot of hit-and-runs. A lot of people know that and seem to be scared of riding their bikes,” says Victoria Partida, president of the Tropicana-Lanai Neighborhood Association. The two roads are major arterials that separate a park from the shopping centers that residents rely on for their daily needs. For many in this working-class community of Mexican, Central American, and Vietnamese immigrants, crossing these roads is not optional—but it needn’t be a life-or-death decision.

Over the last decade, the number of pedestrians killed on U.S. streets rose 46 percent. In 2018, vehicles killed more bicyclists than any year since 1990, with 2019’s total fatalities following close behind. While every deadly collision happens under its own set of circumstances, most of them involve roadway infrastructure that favors driving over other modes of transportation. And a disproportionate number of these crashes occur in communities of color: Drivers strike and kill Black people at an 82 percent higher rate than white people. For Native Americans and Alaskans, the fatality rate skyrockets to 221 percent.

The Story-King intersection is considered a “priority safety corridor” due to its high proportion of fatalities and severe injuries—just the kind of place that San Jose wants to tackle through its citywide mobility initiatives, which include rapidly expanding a network of protected bicycle lanes. The work is part of the American Cities Climate Challenge, a partnership between Bloomberg Philanthropies, NRDC, Delivery Associates, and several other organizations to reduce emissions in the buildings and transportation sectors of 25 U.S. cities.

With thoughtful integration of racial equity into city infrastructure, the kinds of improvements that benefit the environment—for instance, making neighborhoods more accessible by foot or bike—also bring economic, transit, and public health opportunities to residents who have historically been left out of large investments in their communities.

Like San Jose, cities across the United States are trying to make their streets safer and more equitable for walking, biking, scootering, skating, and however else people choose to get around. Here are a few examples.

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