When a Dot on a Map is Not Just a Dot

Last week, Smart Growth America and the National Complete Streets Coalition released its Dangerous By Design 2014 report. Our colleagues’ analysis revealed a staggering statistic: 47,025 people died in the past 10 years as they were walking on United States roadways.

We encourage attendees to use the report's interactive map at our Advocacy Advance Navigating MAP-21 Workshops, so I was eager to explore the updated statistics. But as I navigated the map of fatalities in San Diego, my heart stopped. One particular dot, I realized, was my friends’ brother.

The dots on the Dangerous by Design map are not dots. They’re people who walked. They’re people who were killed because they were walking. And this person was Sho, my friends’ brother: 


I never met him, but knew about him from his brothers. Sho was a victim of a fatal hit-and-run crash in San Diego. He was 23 years old and about to obtain his Master’s degree in structural engineering. He had a loving and supportive family, who today, have established a foundation in his name to award educational scholarships to students with similar academic pursuits and spirit.

Sho is more than a blue dot – and sadly, he is not alone on this map.

We believe that 47,025 pedestrian fatalities is absolutely unacceptable and downright appalling. But others may see the number as just another statistic published in a report.

In addition to advocating for the report’s recommendations for safer street design, bicycling and walking advocates need to use the report and its interactive map to really connect with what the report is all about: the people who lost their lives because they were walking, the families and friends who were affected, and the tragic consequences of tolerating deadly roads.

If you know someone on the map, I encourage you to talk about the person and why safer street design matters. We should move the conversation from dots on a map to the people who are no longer with us and – most importantly – how we can we design our streets to be safer so it doesn’t happen again.

The Dangerous by Design map of pedestrian fatalities is a huge opportunity for bicycling and walking advocates to really convey the message of what 47,025 people really means. They’re 47,025 people with names, faces, and stories that we should be telling.

Do you agree that pedestrian fatalities on our roads are unacceptable? Share this to spread the word.

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