People living in deprived areas and those from minority ethnic backgrounds are notably more likely to be killed or injured as pedestrians on the roads, according to a new study.
The research, using 10 years of casualties reported to the police across England and Wales, found black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) pedestrians living in poorer areas were more than three times as likely to be injured or die than white people in more affluent districts.
White pedestrians in non-deprived areas had an average annual pedestrian casualty rate of 20 in every 100,000 people, it found. For BAME people in deprived places it was 62.
Both ethnicity and deprivation appeared to play a role, with BAME pedestrians in better-off areas having a casualty rate of 24 for every 100,000, with a figure of 48 for white pedestrians living in deprived areas.
Living Streets, the charity which carried out the research with transport consultants Agilysis, said that while it was not completely clear what caused the effects, one likely factor was different levels of car ownership, and more time spent on foot.
Car ownership is strongly correlated to affluence. Of households in the top income quintile, 86% have access to a car, whereas only 55% of those in the bottom quintile do. Members of the richest group also make fewer walking trips, an average of 215 a year against 307 for those in the lowest income group.
There is also a connection to ethnicity, with black adults more than twice as likely to live in households without a car – 39% against 17% for white adults.
Mary Creagh, the chief executive of Living Streets, which campaigns for everyday walking, said that overall the risks of walking were low, and greatly outweighed by the benefits to physical and mental health. As such, she said, the focus should be on creating safer streets.
One possible solution raised by Living Streets is the expansion of so-called low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs), which aim to make residential streets safer for walking and cycling by discouraging through traffic, using filters to make some roads access-only for motor vehicles while allowing bikes and pedestrians to pass.
Citing research indicating that in London, where a series of LTNs have been built in recent months, these tend to disproportionately benefit people in more deprived areas, Creagh argued this was a case for expanding the idea.
“This approach should be adopted nationwide so that low traffic neighbourhoods are offered first in areas where there is greatest risk of road collisions,” Creagh wrote in a foreword to the report.
There are concerns that an overall reduction in road casualty numbers is primarily connected to people inside cars rather than more vulnerable road users, potentially coming from greater in-car protection features rather than genuinely safer roads.
A study last year by the European Transport Safety Council found that the UK was one of only three of the then 28 EU nations where pedestrian casualties were increasing.