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Leaving Cars Behind, Seniors Find Streets Inhospitable

9:43 AM PDT on August 20, 2008

8_20_08_aarp.jpgA recent poll conducted by AARP finds that Americans over the age of 50 are cutting down on car trips due to rising gas prices, but are finding public infrastructure, or lack thereof, to be an obstacle.

Almost one of every three people (29%) polled say they are now walkingas a way to avoid high gas prices. But as those people set out to walk,almost 40% of the 50+ population say they do not have adequatesidewalks in their neighborhoods. Additionally, 44% say they do nothave nearby public transportation that is accessible. Almost half (47%)of poll responders say they cannot cross the main roads safely – 4 in10 pedestrian fatalities are over the age of 50.

Still, 40 percent of poll respondents say they have walked, biked, or taken public transit more frequently since gasoline prices began trending upward. More than half, 54 percent, say they would use alternate modes of transportation if conditions were improved.

As older New Yorkers can attest, impediments to car-free mobility are not exclusive to suburbs and exurbs. Washington, DC, for example, ranks ninth -- better than Arizona but worse than Florida -- in pedestrian fatalities among those over age 65, according to AARP. (New York state is third worst, behind Hawaii and Alaska.)

With some 35 million members, AARP is a formidable lobby. As a member of the National Complete Streets Coalition and backer of legislation that would steer federal funds toward making roadways accessible to all users, it promises to be a player in next year's big transportation appropriations bill.

Photo: Tuan Phan/Flickr

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