Kissimmee Mayor Olga Gonzalez joins WKMG News 6’s Mark Lehman to discuss Operation Best Foot Forward
WKMG News 6's Mark Lehman Reports From Kissimmee joined by Kissimmee Mayor Olga Gonzalez. Law…
This fall, the Best Foot Forward Coalition, comprised of more than 35 partners, held several workshops throughout the Central Florida region to identify the crosswalks of focus for the 2022 fiscal year, spanning October 1, 2021, through September 30, 2022. The Coalition has one simple, measurable goal: get more drivers to yield to pedestrians in marked crosswalks, as Florida law requires. Workshops reviewed the data and observations collected throughout the previous year and identified new target crosswalks focusing on the Triple-E approach: Engineering, Enforcement, and Education.
As the Best Foot Forward program grows, recently adding four additional municipalities, it has shifted to a more localized approach, focusing on each jurisdiction’s individual needs and goals. Each workshop was attended by Bike Walk Central Florida staff and partners from participating counties, cities, school districts, and Health Departments. Additionally, The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), LYNX, Orlando Health, and MetroPlan Orlando also participated in the conversations resulting in a comprehensive analysis of focus crosswalks for 2022. A background of select crosswalks can be found below and the full map of the 2022 Best Foot Forward Crosswalks can be found HERE.
Seminole County has identified several trail crossings in the process of updating its 2021 Trails Master Plan. State Road 426 (Aloma) and Howell Branch Road was selected for observation, as it is currently maintained by FDOT, Orange County, and Seminole County. The signalized intersection is the meeting point where the Cady Way Trail and the Cross Seminole Trail connects. However, people walking and biking have to wait for the light to cross two times (waiting almost five minutes), which results in people either crossing where it’s unsafe or simply turning around. It appears only one in four drivers turning right are yielding to those using the crosswalk as well, so there are several opportunities to improve the safety conditions here. Because all three maintaining agencies are partners of the Best Foot Forward coalition, the shared goal of making this intersection more user-friendly can be achieved through collaboration within the program.
This past year, the City of Casselberry identified several crosswalks along Winter Park Drive to monitor and enforce in preparation for their complete streets design project. Now that the project is underway, Casselberry partners are shifting their focus to several new crosswalks, including a crossing along Melody Lane at South Cypress Way. It was selected due to the rate of speeding drivers in the area, and the foot traffic that the nearby Target brings. Bike Walk Central Florida recently visited the area with Casselberry staff and met a wheelchair-bound person who said, “I’m more visible in the street, so that’s where I go”. He indicated that drivers are often speeding and do not respect his right of way as a pedestrian. With only 39% of drivers yielding to people in the crosswalk here, Casselberry Police Department anticipates educating drivers in the next Operation Best Foot Forward in February.
Returning to the program this year, the City of Longwood is in the process of identifying crosswalks for the upcoming year. Areas of focus include midblock crossings near the SunRail station as well as crossings at some major roads. Longwood Police Department’s inaugural enforcement along SR 434 and US HWY 17-92 back in February of 2019 made the front page of the Orlando Sentinel. Since then, the intersection has been identified as a trouble spot by Spectrum News13. Countermeasures like leading pedestrian intervals (LPI’s) are a part of FDOT’s toolbox and can be implemented at locations like this one to help save lives. The intersection is part of an FDOT Corridor Study currently in the design phase.
Osceola County is heavily focusing its efforts in the program this year around their Safe Routes to School application, a US Department of Transportation grant program that provides funding to fix issues like sidewalk gaps in the pathway for children walking or biking to school. As a result, the crosswalks located near Boggy Creek Elementary, Deerwood Elementary, Hickory Tree Elementary, and Parkway Middle schools have been selected to monitor, enforce, and educate both students and drivers in the area about the law.
Local community concerns have been raised for a deaf person who utilizes the crosswalks at Tallahassee Boulevard at Myakka Street. With only 37% of drivers yielding to pedestrians, it is undoubtedly a cause for concern! February’s Operation Best Foot Forward will raise awareness for people of all abilities crossing the street and aims to educate the community on the experiences people may have that differ from their own.
Instead of adding new crosswalks, the City of Kissimmee is continuing a deep dive into its current locations. One shining example is the trail crossing at 898 North Hoagland Boulevard. Monitored as part of the program since the county’s inauguration in 2018, data collected shows an average of just one in five drivers yielding for people using the crosswalk. After identifying the need for change here, the city’s Transportation and Planning staff have ordered improvements that are currently underway. The crossing will receive rectangular-rapid flashing beacons (RRFB’s), as well as new signs and pavement markings making the crosswalk more visible to drivers. RRFB’s have historically raised the rate of drivers yielding by an average of 35% within the program, so we look forward to seeing what the improvements will make to the area.
Hard at work on their 10th Street Study with MetroPlan Orlando, the City of St. Cloud will be focusing on the crossings along 10th Street at Michigan Ave., Mississippi Ave., and Robinson Ave. near schools and activity centers. A previous effort was made along Lakeshore Boulevard where several RRFB’s were installed, improving the average rate of drivers yielding by 25%. The data collected at the crosswalks selected will be shared with MetroPlan Orlando and St. Cloud staff and consultants to help improve their decisions and designs.
In Orange County, coalition partners are focused on changing driver behavior along Pine Hills Road. Three of the crosswalks identified this year are along the Pine Hills Road corridor, in anticipation of the safety improvements underway. The new improvements will help narrow the roadway, and provide facilities for bicycles and pedestrians to navigate, which includes installing more RRFB’s like the one at El Trio Way, near Evans High School. After several enforcements and outreach events in the area, and the installation of the RRFB, the average number of drivers yielding to people using the crosswalk has improved by over 40%.
As part of the City of Orlando’s Vision Zero Action Plan, a mission to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries within the city by 2040, many of the crosswalks selected reside on the High Injury Network (HIN) where those crashes occur. These roads along the HIN have different characteristics, like the number of lanes or speed limit in place, so the data collected in our program helps lead decision-makers to install certain safety measures that are proven successful based on the context of the road. Orlando also tests new safety features like automatic pedestrian detection devices and ADA features to assist the sight or hearing impaired with crossing the street. By sharing the effectiveness of the new devices with the remainder of the coalition, other jurisdictions can apply the features to their own critical areas. Michigan Ave and Cayman Way was a great example of how installing low-cost countermeasures like a stop bar and advanced signs not only increased the number of drivers yielding but also increased the distance they stopped from the crosswalk — making the experience feel safer for those crossing the street. With an increase of 60% from its initial data collection in 2012, the results have inspired other partners to make quick and inexpensive, yet effective improvements.
Many of the conflicts that exist between drivers and pedestrians are due in part to the built environment, and with new developments planned for new partners, the Town of Oakland, and the City of Apopka, they are taking a proactive approach and learning best practices from the coalition. By developing and designing with safety at the forefront of the decision-making process, they can prevent serious and fatal crashes from occurring. The West Orange Trail and Lake Apopka Trail intersect many streets throughout these communities and connecting the trails means new opportunities. With enforcement and outreach efforts near existing crosswalks, educating both drivers and people walking, and biking will ‘spill over’ into the newly developed communities.
Also, returning to the program this year is the city of Winter Park. Recognized as a Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of America Bicyclists in 2017, Winter Park actively commits to expand and improve its balanced transportation network through engineering, education, and enforcement of pedestrian and bicycle laws. Crosswalks selected for the upcoming year include several near LYNX stops, senior living centers, trail crossings, and community parks.
An expanded Best Foot Forward program footprint means welcome opportunities to make the Central Florida region safer for people biking and walking. While some partners may take part in long-term full-scale crosswalk redesign projects, many opportunities exist with low-cost engineering solutions based on the data that the program collects. This evaluation, coupled with outreach to the community and high-visibility enforcement campaigns, Best Foot Forward will continue to move the needle and make roads safer for everyone!
The full map of the 2022 Best Foot Forward Crosswalks can be found HERE.