Many Vermont communities do not feel safe for walking, rolling, or biking on their roads.
This is often due to high vehicle travel speeds, absent or damaged sidewalks, and crosswalks, and crime risk. In 2019, one in ten Vermont adults say their community is either only slightly safe or not at all safe for walking (10%). Black, Indigenous, and other adults of color and those with a disability are statistically more likely to say their community is not safe for walking than white, non-Hispanic adults and those with no disability (Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Report, 2019/2020).
People in certain areas of the state feel more unsafe than others. Adults in Rutland County (15%) are statistically more likely to say their community is either only slightly safe or not at all safe for walking when compared to all Vermont adults.
Active transportation, such as walking and biking, and public transportation can improve health.
Having active transportation options in a community increases physical activity levels and reduces environmental impacts. Communities designed for the safety of vulnerable road users, especially people walking, biking, rolling, and using public transport, will be safer for all users.
Improving pedestrian safety in Vermont requires a community effort.
State and local governments can work together to protect community members while traveling, maintain existing sidewalks, and strategize about infrastructure changes to maximize community benefit; law enforcement officials can enforce laws designed to keep people safe as they move through their communities; media can cover stories around our transportation system and use language that does not inadvertently assign blame to victims, and individuals can follow the rules of the road and respect the safety of their neighbors.
Creating safe walking infrastructure is an equity issue.
Across the U.S., older adults, people living in rural areas, people with disabilities, African Americans, Indigenous people, and people walking in low-income communities continue to be disproportionately represented in injuries and fatal crashes with drivers and people walking. People of color, especially Black or African American, and American Indian or Alaska Native people, continue to die while walking at higher rates compared to White, Non-Hispanic, Hispanic, Asian, and Pacific Islander people (Smart Growth America, 2022). In Vermont, from 2011-2020, 51% of pedestrians killed on our roadways were over 60 years old (Vermont Agency of Transportation Data).