Reaching out to Drivers in their Space

Earlier this month, Amanda Day, Executive Director of Bike/Walk Central Florida took to the radio waves to help educate people about pedestrian and bicycle safety. She interviewed with Cox Media Radio here in Orlando to discuss the importance of the newly released Dangerous by Design report and how we can all work to make the roads safer for bicyclists, pedestrians and drivers.

The interview aired on five local radio stations, including WDBO.

 

According to Day, the mission of Bike/Walk Central Florida is to make biking and walking on Orlando-area streets a normal thing.

Day talked about the most recent Dangerous by Design report from Smart Growth America, released in January. It listed the Orlando metro area (Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford) as the most dangerous place in the country for people who walk. Day went in-depth into how the “Pedestrian Danger Index” is calculated, and why, for example: Central Florida ranks higher than other cities like New York.

Central Florida saw a big boom after World War II, when engineers were specifically designing roads for cars. Their goal was to get drivers across longer distances faster, so they could live in the suburbs and drive to their destinations. The problem now: how do you reconcile roads with speeds of 45 mph and people who need to cross eight lanes of traffic to get to the grocery store? This type of change will take time.

We must also work to change the way we speak and think about travelers of all kinds, Day said. At one point, Day gave this example, “As drivers, we think, ‘why is that crazy pedestrian trying to cross the road right now!” And as pedestrians, we think, “doesn’t that driver see me? Why isn’t he slowing down?”

Day also highlighted the program, Best Foot Forward for Pedestrian Safety, which is made up of a coalition of government officials, law enforcement, schools, local health professionals and more. She discussed the specific goal of BFF: getting more drivers to stop for pedestrians in marked crosswalks. BFF uses a three-pronged approach of Education, Enforcement and Engineering to help make pedestrians safer on Central Florida streets. For BFF, Day said, it’s all about incremental behavior change. “Think about New Year’s resolutions,” she said. “We make these big, grand statements that we only follow for a few weeks for months. Behavior change has to be small and incremental.”

Day said she is encouraged by the changes she has seen over the past few years, including significant engineering changes, and an eagerness from public officials to help address the problem. The Complete Streets program is a major example of that.

Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety now a Separate “Area of Emphasis” for MetroPlan Orlando

At the most recent MetroPlan Orlando Board meeting, the board voted unanimously to add “Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety” as an Area of Emphasis. Those are a handful of areas where the board will specifically focus, when making plans for the upcoming year.

The change was proposed by Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings after a presentation on the current four Areas of Emphasis, which include: Trail Connectivity, Complete Streets, Engaging a younger population and SunRail connectivity. The safety mission was previously included in the larger area of Complete Streets, but Mayor Demings felt it was important enough to make it an area all by itself.

Apopka Vice Mayor Doug Bankson agreed. He mentioned how he lost his brother to a pedestrian crash when he was younger, so pedestrian safety is an important platform for him.

A lot can change in a year, and with a Board comprised of 20 percent new members, it was the perfect time to share an overview and update of the Best Foot Forward program, which just wrapped up year one in Osceola County. BFF’s Amanda Day kicked off the presentation with a 5-minute long video for the board showing some of the ways Best Foot Forward is actively working to increase driver yield rates and lower pedestrian crash numbers. You can watch it above.

MetroPlan Orlando continues to be an integral part of the Best Foot Forward mission to lower the number of deadly driver vs. pedestrian collisions by getting more drivers to yield to people in marked crosswalks.

Data Collection… Saves Lives?

Did you know that throughout the year, we are monitoring certain local crosswalks, and tracking just how many drivers stop for pedestrians crossing the street?

In preparation for our next enforcement event, Operation BFF, we sent out a team of data collectors this week to observe and measure driver and pedestrian behavior at crosswalks across Orange county.

This week our Student BFFers from Rollins College joined our data collection to witness first-hand how we calculate yield rates. Now, we know “driver yield rates” may not sound like the most fun, but it is the most critical element to measuring the success of our Operation BFF enforcement actions.

Picture this: A four lane road with a speed limit of 40 MPH, a crosswalk with pedestrian signs, flashing lights and stark white pain, a data collector with three college students walking across the crosswalk. Two drivers have slowed, almost to a complete stop to let people cross. Then seemingly out of nowhere, another driver flies around the stopped cars. When the impatient driver does this, the group of pedestrians is almost hit and trapped in the center of the street.

This is just one example of many and is the exact reason why we do Operation BFF. Prior to law enforcement handing out tickets in a crosswalk crackdown, our data collectors with pen and paper in hand, travel across the county and walk a total of 45 times across designated crosswalks. They monitor the number of fellow pedestrians on the street. They record the number of drivers who yield, the distance at which they yield and any evasive actions taken to avoid a crash. Our data collectors also record the engineering of the road. How is the painting of the crosswalk? Are trees or telephone poles blocking the view of the pedestrian yield signs? Are rapid flashing beacons present?

All of these observations are converted into statistics. Then, three short weeks later, following Operation BFF enforcement actions at the same crosswalks initially measured, our brave data collectors return to the streets to measure post-enforcement driver yield rates.

We have shown time and time again that high visibility enforcement by police and sheriff’s deputies make drivers more aware of pedestrians in crosswalks. Data consistently shows that more drivers yield or stop for pedestrians after Operation BFF, potentially saving lives.

Team Explores Central Florida On Foot, Via Public Transit

Sometimes, you just need a brain break, especially during a busy week. A couple of Bike/Walk Central Florida team members recently snuck away from their desks to explore some of Central Florida’s transit options (all in the name of research, of course). 

First, the duo headed to the Winter Park Sunrail Station and easily mastered the automatic kiosk, purchasing two SunRail tickets. A loud whistle signaled the train’s approach, and, with a quick tap of their tickets, they were on their way to Church Street Station in Downtown Orlando. The whole experience was effortless and much-preferred over the alternative – a trip down I-4.

After hopping off of the Sunrail, it was “game-on” to find a bike. Without even leaving the station, the infamous green and orange bikes were within sight. Unfortunately, cars exiting I-4 were too close for comfort. With no bike lane in sight, the pair set off decided to skip the wheels and headed towards Lake Eola on foot. They enjoyed the view of Downtown Orlando and were grateful that they didn’t have to go too far before they came across two more Lime Bikes inviting them for a ride. This time, a bike lane and less traffic provided a much more welcoming venue.

With just a few clicks and a quick QR code scan, the bikes were unlocked and ready to roll. What makes these bikes special is the e-Assist, providing a little kick to help you coast along. A quick, leisurely ride landed them at the beautiful Lake Eola Park, the perfect pit stop to enjoy some amazing mid-January weather. The question of the hour – “how can I ditch my responsibilities and sign up to be a Lake Eola swan?” Sadly, that’s not an option, so the team was forced to snap back to reality and start the journey back to the BWCF office.

Once arriving to Lynx, it seemed as if the bikes were being reunited to their home – multiple rows of the familiar orange and green bikes lined the empty field adjacent to the station. The pair was grateful for the assistance of a nearby Lynx employee, who helped them locate the 102 that took them straight back to Park Avenue in Winter Park.

Thank you to Sunrail, Juice Bikes, Lime Bikes and Lynx for an awesome experience exploring the City Beautiful and all of the wonderful transit options! If you are interested in seeing the experience firsthand, head to our Instagram (@bikewalkcfl) and check out the WP->DTO highlight.

News 13 & WFTV discuss latest Dangerous by Design report

In the wake of the latest Smart Growth America Dangerous by Design 2019 report — again ranking Central Florida as one of the most dangerous places for people to walk — regional officials, advocates and organizations continue to work together for pedestrian safety.

Media in Central Florida has also stepped up to bring attention to this problem, helping to explain how the report ranks each metro area, talking directly with residents affected by our dangerous roads every day and helping to explain what is being done to end this epidemic.

Central Florida News 13’s Ryan Harper helps to explain the Pedestrian Danger Index (PDI), which is how the study ranks metro communities. PDI measures how deadly it is for people to walk, based on the number of people struck and killed by drivers while walking, controlling for the number of people that live in that state or metro area and the share of people who walk to work.

Watch the full segment to see how Ryan Harper puts into perspective how we ranked among other dangerous places for walkers in Florida.

WFTV Channel 9 took to the streets to interview people out and about trying to cross Central Florida’s roads safely, noting that whether you are in a crosswalk or not, you’re still in danger. The segment goes on to explain that it’s not just Central Florida, it’s all of Florida – in fact, nine metro areas in Florida are listed in the top 15 worst communities for people walking.

City of Orlando’s Transportation Director, Billy Hattaway, cites two major issues as contributors to this problem: roads designed for high speeds and distracted driving. A combination of Vision Zero, which aims to eliminate all pedestrian fatalities through education and enforcement, and funding from Orlando Stops, a red-light camera program, are two ways that the City of Orlando is working to solve this problem. See the full segment below.