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The Town of Oakland and the Cities of Apopka, Longwood and Winter Park became the newest municipalities to step up their pedestrian safety efforts by joining the Best Foot Forward for Pedestrian Safety Coalition.
According to Emily Hanna, Executive Director of Bike/Walk Central Florida, “The Best Foot Forward Coalition strengthened with the addition of these municipalities. They’ll be working alongside other Central Florida agencies all dedicated to reducing the conflict between drivers and people on foot. We’re thrilled to have them officially join the coalition.”
While Winter Park and Longwood joined the program in the Fall, Oakland and Apopka both participated in a July 27 & 28 and Oakland in the November 9 – 11 region-wide Operation Best Foot Forward high-visibility enforcement operations where officers enforced Florida’s driver yield laws. However, planning for the operation started much earlier. The town/city councils first agreed to join the coalition in May as their planners selected crosswalks for initial focus.
Apopka chose 5th St. & S. Park Ave. where pedestrian crossing warning signs were just added. Oakland selected Oakland Ave & Sansparilla Rd. where residents cross to reach the West Orange Trail and nearby Oakland Avenue Charter School. Oakland also selected the crosswalk at N. Tubb St. and the West Orange Trail, where pedestrian and bicycling traffic often exceeds 40,000 per month.
Next, law enforcement officers trained on how to effectively conduct a high-visibility enforcement operation, as well as on driver yield laws. Considerable emphasis was placed on using the standard crossing protocol, because it helps ensure citations will be upheld in court and, most importantly, ensures the safety of plainclothes officers serving as pedestrian decoys.
The officers put the training into practice during the July operation. Timing coincided with children preparing to return to school, intentionally reminding drivers to be extra observant. Overall, officers and deputies throughout the region issued 301 citations and warnings, and thousands more drivers got the message through traditional and social media. Oakland Police Lt. Angela Campbell’s interview with WFTV is one example of more than 115 news stories about the operation and pedestrian safety appearing that week.
The operations in Apopka and Oakland were successful, and both partners are eager to continue with the program’s triple-E approach of engineering, enforcement and education.
“Both communities are dedicated to making their communities safer for people on foot, and it was a natural fit to add the Best Foot Forward program to their toolbox,” said Hanna. “We are eager to select crosswalks for this fall, start collecting data and conduct community outreach in these communities, educating drivers and pedestrians on the Florida driver yield laws.”
Winter Park and Longwood are now in the process of determining which crosswalks the program will monitor and enforce in 2022. Community outreach and education will also play a large role in these communities.
Other participating partners in Best Foot Forward include:
- Regionally: MetroPlan Orlando, the Florida Department of Transportation, the Florida Department of Health, Orlando Health and LYNX.
- In Orange: Orange County Government, the City of Orlando, the City of Apopka, the City of Oakland, the City of Winter Park, Orange County Public Schools, Orange County Walk-Ride-Thrive, Orlando Stops, as well as law enforcement from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Orlando, Oakland, and Apopka Police Departments.
- In Osceola: Osceola County Government, the City of Kissimmee, the City of St. Cloud, Osceola County School District, and law enforcement including the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office and the Police Departments of Kissimmee and St. Cloud.
- In Seminole: Seminole County Government, the City of Casselberry, the City of Longwood, Seminole County Public Schools, Seminole County School Crossing Guards, and local law enforcement including the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office and Casselberry Police Department.