Our Views: Make walking safer in state

The winter storm visiting south Louisiana in recent days offered a vivid reminder of the perils from getting behind the wheel. But there can be dangers, too, in taking a simple walk.

That’s the latest finding from a report on pedestrian safety in Louisiana produced by the Center for Planning Excellence and the Louisiana Public Health Institute. The study concluded Louisiana has the fifth highest pedestrian death rate in the United States.

Louisiana has a pedestrian death rate of 2.29 per 100,000 residents. The report also said Louisiana is third highest in child pedestrian deaths, with a fatality rate of 1.43.

CPEX is a nonprofit group that assists local communities across Louisiana with planning issues. The Louisiana Public Health Institute, another nonprofit, promotes better health in the state.

Rachel DiResto, who helps lead CPEX, said Louisiana communities could do a better job of promoting pedestrian safety by including more sidewalks and crosswalks in public works projects. In New Orleans, adoption of a “complete” streets ordinance has promoted the idea of a street design that serves all its users.

Too often, pedestrian infrastructure is an afterthought when streets and roads are built or improved.

Although we’re not happy about Louisiana’s high ranking for pedestrian fatalities, the risk of being injured while taking a walk are still pretty low. The broader health concern, in our view, are the higher incidences of diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension, that result from sedentary lifestyles. In a state with such high rates of obesity, a big factor in many illnesses, officials have a special obligation to promote walking.

Building more sidewalks and crosswalks is the logical first step.