Smart Growth America’s Dangerous by Design 2016 report lists the deadliest cities to walk in, and Orlando’s ranking was down from first to third most dangerous. On the surface, this looks like an achievement. But someone caught in the path of an oncoming vehicle has no ranking, only a binary status: alive or dead.
Emphasizing the point, 12 people were killed while crossing the street in Central Florida within the first 15 days of 2017.
The reports of these deaths are probably familiar: snippets of TV or radio detailing when, who and where:
“Woman, 31, struck and killed in Lake Mary.”
“Man in wheelchair killed, woman injured in Orlando crash.”
Perhaps such reports are so common in Florida that they no larger register with news audiences for what they are: deadly reminders of how far Orlando has to go before it can be called pedestrian friendly. These deaths should be all the more jarring, however, because they are preventable.
What can be done? Pedestrians and bicyclists should exercise caution and stay out of harm’s way, but they are practically defenseless against inattentive or reckless drivers. Drivers shoulder a greater burden for protecting people on foot or bike, who are more vulnerable outside of a car.
With a bit of self-training, drivers can stay cautious and aware of pedestrians (just as pedestrians should remain cautious and aware of cars). Instead of using a red light as an opportunity to text or change playlists, take the time to check if someone is entering the crosswalk. Or whenever you glance backward to note the car in your blind spot, remember to look for bicyclists too.
With vigilance by everyone who uses our roads, Orlando can earn a reputation as a city that’s friendly for people who drive, walk or bike.