The following edited excerpt is from a journal article submitted for W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Digest of Community Development. It was written by Nikita Buckhoy, Todd Scott, and Myra Tetteh, members of the Physical Activity Workgroup (formerly Built Environment Workgroup) of the Detroit Food & Fitness Collaborative. The article addresses how complete streets and greenways are solutions to Detroiter’s concerns around safety, health and economy. Over the next few months, we’ll be publishing different parts of the article; this excerpt addresses the safety issue.
Far too often Detroit appears on lists declaring it as one of the most hazardous places to live because of safety, crime violence, and accidents. Safety concerns impede residents’ ability to be physically active.
During a focus group conducted by the Built Environment/Physical Activity (BE/PA) Workgroup, the residents detailed safety as a significant impediment to their physical activity. Concerns that impede residents’ ability to be physically active in their community include crime and violence and pedestrian-automobile crashes. Detroit has one of the highest rates for pedestrian crashes in the nation. (Michigan State Police, 2010).
In 2011, Detroit had 489 pedestrian and 109 bicycle crashes (Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, 2012). Pedestrian and bicycle crashes are a great concern for Detroit residents. Implementing complete streets infrastructure including mid-block crossing, bike lanes, and pedestrian sanctuaries, improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Criminal violence also serves as a deterrent for physical activity, parents and schools limit physical activity access to youth to ensure they are kept safe. Built environment interventions can be used as a method to enhance neighborhood safety. More eyes and feet are on the pavement, similar to a neighborhood watch. This intervention makes criminals are less likely to engage in violence since they are aware that others are watching.
[T]he design of the built environment should not impede the propensity for walking and physical activity. The link between built-environment characteristics and safety from crime and/or traffic danger has been clearly established by researchers. Therefore, design and policy interventions aiming to enhance neighborhood safety are the necessary first steps for the encouragement of walking. (Loukaitou-Sideris, 2006)
Introducing built environment enhancements to a community with safety challenges can serve as a step in the right direction to reduce pedestrian-automobile crashes and decrease criminal activities.