Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs puts her best foot forward for pedestrian safety

In the recent Orange County Connect Newsletter, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs discusses her commitment to pedestrian safety in a letter to readers.

Greetings,

1403534_648973408466696_503596935_oAs families prepare for the first day of school in Orange County, I encourage you to join our efforts to keep our most precious citizens safe as they head back to school. Whether children are walking and biking to school or adults are crossing a street or riding for exercise, Orange County wants to ensure that residents, businesses and visitors enjoy a community with safe transportation options and superb quality of life.

With pedestrian and bicycle safety as one of my top priorities, I am pleased to announce the launch of Orange County’s Pedestrian Safety Program. This initiative will serve as an umbrella for Orange County’s pedestrian and bicycle safety initiatives, and will complement the efforts of the region’s partner organizations. This new initiative enhances and refines the County’s current response to pedestrian and bicycle safety issues in coordination with other local, regional, state and federal initiatives.

To jumpstart the initiative, $15 million will be allocated for pedestrian safety and intersection improvements over the next five years as part of our INVEST in Our Home for Life  initiative, the capstone announcement during the State of the County address I delivered in June. These improvements will provide sidewalks, crosswalks, signals, turn lanes, updated signage and other necessary safety improvements. Additionally, safety projects will be designed and constructed for roadways in the Pine Hills, Oak Ridge and Alafaya Trail areas, all areas with great pedestrian activity. The County also will conduct its first Pedestrian/Bicycle Safety Action Plan in partnership with our local communities.

Earlier this year, I joined a nationwide effort to make our streets safer for pedestrians by participating in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Mayors’ Challenge for Safer People, Safer Streets. The challenge is to make roads more pedestrian and bike friendly by incorporating safe and convenient walking and biking measures into transportation projects. During the year-long Challenge, our engineers and transportation planners will be working to complete pedestrian and bicycle networks and address barriers to make streets safe for all people.

Orange County’s Pedestrian Safety Program capitalizes on this momentum by establishing a coordinated, comprehensive and consistent response to the pedestrian and bicycle safety issues in Orange County – a vital need, given the fact that Metro Orlando, unfortunately, holds a top national ranking when it comes to dangerous areas for pedestrians. According to a 2014 report released by a coalition of nonprofits that studied pedestrian-fatality rates in the nation’s largest metropolitan areas – Orlando and the four-county region of Orange, Seminole, Osceola and Lake – recorded 583 pedestrian deaths from 2003-2012. That number puts us at the top of the list of dangerous areas to walk, and is a number we know we can reduce with this concerted effort. That is why it is a top priority to invest in needed pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements.

Orange County’s Sustainability Plan, “Our Home for Life,” also addresses the issue of pedestrian and bicyclist safety, and outlines incremental and transformative changes for the County through 2040, to improve the quality of life for current and future Orange County residents and visitors. The Pedestrian Safety Program  furthers this vision by establishing a collective emphasis on reducing pedestrian and bicyclist crashes by improving street safety and creating lasting, positive change.

Since 2012, Orange County has been spearheading the development of a comprehensive local pedestrian safety initiative. In addition to our pedestrian safety program, numerous local partners, including Best Foot Forward, theCity of Orlando, MetroPlan Orlando, LYNX, Bike/Walk Central Florida, Orange County Public Schools and local enforcement agencies have joined together to help boost pedestrian and bicycle safety by using engineering, enforcement and education tools.

Thank you for doing your part to make our roads safer. Let’s all remember to obey crossing signals, look for cars backing up or turning, use marked crosswalks, and to look left, right and left again.

As always, I thank you for staying connected with your local government, and for making Orange County the best place to live, work and raise a family.

Sincerely,
Teresa Jacobs
Orange County Mayor

 

Orlando Sentinel: Something’s afoot – Communities become more walkable

Beth Kassab with the Orlando Sentinel shares her personal experiences with walkable communities. Check out the original story here.

os-osig-new-downtowns-beth-kassab-20150726-001A few nights ago I walked to dinner. The kids hopped on their bikes, and my husband and I followed on foot. The squeals of soaked toddlers darting in and out of the fountains at the new splash pad started to drown out nearby traffic.

There were wide sidewalks the entire way, and we didn’t have to cross any roads more than two lanes wide.

That’s something, as someone who surrendered to suburbia long ago, I never thought I would say.
Slowly, though, the places where we live are changing. Oviedo, which I call home, and places such as Winter Springs, Winter Park, Lake Mary and Winter Garden are becoming infinitely more walkable.

No longer is the panache of the “Where should we walk tonight?” conversation solely the domain of people who live in downtown Orlando, Thornton Park, College Park and Audubon Park.

This doesn’t just matter on a wonky, urban-planning kind of level. Or even from an environmental level because fewer of us will be driving.

To me, this matters because if I get home from work late and don’t feel like cooking, I can get my family on bicycles and be at Panera Bread or Outback Steakhouse in a few minutes.

Oh, and I don’t have to feel as bad that I skipped the gym that morning to make an appointment because by the time we walk home, my pedometer will have clocked a few more thousand steps.

Not to mention that my family enjoys these walks through the new Oviedo on the Park.
My 4- and 6-year-olds love to jump off their bikes and climb the cargo net on the playground American Ninja Warrior-style. The expansive lawn that stretches out from the new amphitheater like a green blanket is perfect for running barefoot after a flying Frisbee.

And there’s always a few people contemplating their next move on the giant chess board tucked between the playground and the splash pad. The kids practically beg to go some nights.

Not every subdivision is within walking distance of restaurants, shops and other places. But even the mere fact that these so-called town centers are closer to more subdivisions (read: much shorter drives from home) can make life so much easier.

Full disclosure: I don’t like the term “town center.” So many of them are artificial-looking.

And Oviedo’s still has a ways to go before it’s complete. But after years of getting them wrong (e.g., Waterford Lakes), developers are starting to get them right.

So are cities.

And Lake Mary is a great example. A big employment and residential base will continue to nurture the cluster of shops and restaurants along North Fourth Street.

Winter Garden, too. My family and I recently spent an entire day in the one-time citrus town where old packing labels decorate a city fountain.

Until recently I never went to the food-truck night in Oviedo. It was usually held on a Sunday night in the parking lot of the Oviedo Mall.

Driving to a sea of concrete to eat isn’t all that appealing. Plus, as one of my neighbors recently put it, “I don’t need a food truck on a Sunday night. I have time to cook on Sunday. I need a food truck on a harried Thursday.”

And so the recent food-truck night at the new park (on a Thursday) was pretty crowded. The kids munched on chicken bites from Melissa’s Chicken & Waffles. My husband and I tried tacos from the Korean BBQ Taco Box and Bem Bom.

Then we set off to leisurely walk back home.

Man, it feels good to say that.

Copyright © 2015, Orlando Sentinel

Round and Round: Roundabouts are coming to Central Florida

RoundaboutReady or not, roundabouts are coming to Florida. And it’s best to be ready for them.

Last year, the Florida Department of Transportation adopted a roundabout policy and is encouraging its use on future road projects, directing other areas to build at least two roundabouts within a five-year span.

Lake County recently welcomed its newest roundabout at the intersection of county roads 455 and 561. And let’s not forget roundabouts already located in Thornton Park, the town of Windermere, Baldwin Park and Winter Garden.

So here’s a refresher guide to help you safely navigate a roundabout:

If you’re a motorist:

  • Determine where you want to go.
  • Approach the roundabout as you would a typical four-way intersection.
  • Stay to the right on the splitter island and SLOW DOWN to 10-15 mph.
  • If you are making a right turn, you should be in the right lane; if you are making a left turn, you should be in the left lane; through movements can be made from either lane.
  • Watch for bicyclists and allow for them to merge into the entry lane.
  • Watch for and yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk or waiting to cross.
  • YIELD to traffic already in the roundabout.
  • Do not turn left at the splitter island.
  • Once you are in the roundabout, do not stop, except to avoid a collision; you have the right-of-way over entering traffic. Travel in a counter clockwise direction. Do not change lanes.
  • Look for your street, use your right-turn signal and exit the roundabout.
  • As you exit the roundabout, watch for and yield to pedestrians and bicyclists.
  • If you miss your street, simply travel around the roundabout again and exit at the desired street.

If you’re a pedestrian:

  • Stay on the designated walkways at all times, crossing only at designated crosswalks.
  • Never cross to the central island.
  • Watch for cars; you have the right-of-way, but your best protection is your own attention.
  • Cross the crosswalk one lane at a time, using the splitter island as a refuge area before crossing the next lane.

If you’re a bicyclist:

  • If comfortable riding in traffic, you may ride on the circulatory roadway of the roundabout like a car.
  • As you approach the roundabout, merge into the entry lane before the shoulder or bike lane ends.
  • Communicate your intentions to drivers by pointing to your destination.
  • If uncomfortable riding in traffic, dismount your bicycle at the crosswalk and move to the sidewalk. Once on the sidewalk, walk your bicycle like a pedestrian.

Still have questions? Take a look at FDOT’s pamphlet, A Guide to Roundabouts below:

Photo project highlights accessibility in Central Florida for people with disabilities

Disability Project 2Six members of the disability community are photographing their daily lives in Central Florida as part of a photovoice project that highlights living with a disability and how accessibility affects daily activities.

The photovoice project, spearheaded by Lani Steffens, features many seemingly simple tasks as crossing the street and traveling to the grocery store, where accessibility for people with a disability it crucial for their safety. In one participant’s case, the sidewalk that she travels often is narrow, uneven and sharply inclined by the crosswalk crossing button, which makes it impossible for her to press the button to allow her the right of way to cross the busy street. Her options are to try crossing the street and race traffic or to travel further out of her way to a safer crosswalk.

While there are areas for improvements, such as in the crosswalk case, the project also recognizes how accessibility is working. Wide and flat sidewalks allow for easy terrain and enough space for wheelchairs to maneuver. Handicap parking spaces make an exhausting trip to the grocery store a little easier.

To view the photovoice project from the six participants, click here.

Steffens worked with the Center for Independent Living, who provided space and resources for the project.

For more information about the project, contact Steffens at [email protected].

Where do you bike? Map your ride with Strava

unnamedWhat if there was a way to share your cycle route with transportation planners in the area? With the Strava app, you can! MetroPlan Orlando and FDOT use the Strava app to learn more about the wants and needs of local cyclists who are riding in Orange, Osceola, and Seminole counties. This free app gives great insight into where central Floridians are riding and helps transportation officials create better biking roads for you. Download Strava today and share your ride. Get more information here from MetroPlan Orlando.