RELEASE re SGA’s Dangerous by Design report



For Immediate Release:

July 12, 2022

Stewart Schwartz, CSG, 703-599-6437
Sonya Breehey, CSG-VA, 202-431-2924
Jane Lyons, CSG-MD, 410-474-0741

CSG Highlights Today’s National Report Demonstrating Our Roads Are

CSG and partners are leading fights to make streets safer for pedestrians in the DC region

Today, Smart Growth America released “Dangerous by Design” documenting the dangers faced by pedestrians on America’s roads. “The Coalition for Smarter Growth urges every official in the DC region, Maryland, and Virginia, to read this report and to make safety for pedestrians and bicyclists on our streets a top priority,” said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director. 

According to the report, national statistics show:

  • Pedestrian fatalities are up 62% since 2009, totalling 64,073 deaths.
  • Pedestrian fatalities increased 4.7% in 2020 over 2019 and preliminary data shows 7485 deaths in 2021, a 40-year high.
  • Arterial highways – think Route 1, Route 355, Route 50, Georgia Avenue, and Route 7 in the DC region – comprise 15% of all lane miles in the U.S. but 67% of pedestrian deaths.
  • During the pandemic, as traffic congestion went down, more drivers drove faster and death rates went up.
  • Places that were less friendly to walking before the pandemic had significantly higher increases in pedestrian fatalities during the pandemic compared to places that supported higher rates of walking pre-pandemic. 
  • People of color, particularly Native and Black Americans are more likely to die while walking.
  • Lower income people and older people are more likely to die while walking.

While the most dangerous metropolitan regions and states for pedestrians were concentrated in the south and southwest, the report shows that in the DMV:

  • Maryland was among the 20 worst states for pedestrians between 2011 and 2016 – ranking at #16, and continued to get worse during the pandemic.
  • The Baltimore and Richmond regions were among the Metro areas that saw increases in their death rates during the pandemic, while the DC region’s rate went down, reflecting a pattern where regions that had safer records before the pandemic showed improvement, while fatality rates continued to increase in those regions that had poorer records before the pandemic.
  • The District of Columbia joins just four states in making progress reducing pedestrian fatality rates when comparing the five-year period of 2016-2020 with 2011-2015 (CSG note: however, a recent spate of deaths including of adults and young children in DC points to continuing serious street safety issues).

“Despite better relative rankings than many parts of the U.S. the DC region is still seeing too many deaths and serious injuries to pedestrians and cyclists, and like other parts of the country, our suburban arterial roads are particularly dangerous. That’s why CSG has partnered with CASA in a campaign to make Route 7 in Baileys Crossroads safer, helping the Gum Springs community’s fight for a safer Route 1 in Fairfax, and working together with the Northern Virginia Families for Safe Streets and Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling  for safer streets across Northern Virginia,” said Sonya Breehey, CSG’s Northern Virginia Advocacy Manager. 

“Similarly, we support Action Committee for Transit’s fight for safer streets in Montgomery County and are working for safer streets in Prince George’s, which have some of the highest rates of pedestrian injuries and deaths in the region,” said Jane Lyons, CSG’s Maryland Advocacy Manager.

“The greater Washington region’s Equity Emphasis Areas, which have higher percentages of people of color and lower-income households, experience disproportionately more fatalities of pedestrians and crashes on arterials than the rest of the region,” said Bill Pugh, CSG Senior Policy Fellow.

“Unfortunately, VDOT and MDOT, and many local departments of transportation are not taking the sort of swift and concerted action necessary to make our streets safer. They continue to prioritize vehicle speed and movement over safety, and routinely push back on redesigning our streets – especially our very dangerous arterials to make them safer for people walking, biking, rolling, and using transit,” said Schwartz.

Sonya Breehey concluded, “SGA documents why design matters and we urge a transformation in how our state and local departments of transportation design our streets – using the design guidance from NACTO (National Association of City Transportation Officials) instead of the car-dominant AASHTO (American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials). Funding should be shifted from highway and arterial expansion to redesigning our arterials and streets to make them safer for all users.”

CSG staff are available to provide examples of recent pedestrian deaths on particular corridors and to connect the media to other advocates for interviews.


The Coalition for Smarter Growth is the leading organization in the Washington DC region dedicated to making the case for smart growth. The mission of our 25-year-old organization is to advocate for walkable, bikeable, and transit-oriented communities as the most sustainable and equitable way for the Washington, DC region to grow and provide opportunities for all.