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Katy, Best Foot Forward coordinator and data collector, shares her experience collecting baseline yield rates data at various crosswalks throughout Orlando and Orange County
They call me an “aggressive” pedestrian. It is probably because of my time spent in Washington, DC and New York City, where walking was my primary form of transportation. When Best Foot Forward asked me to be a “data collector” and measure yield rates at marked crosswalks in Orange County, I jumped at the chance. I’m getting my masters in Urban Planning at Rollins and I have studied a lot about the interwoven relationship between street design and pedestrian and bicycle safety — but now I’m going to experience first hand.
“Are these people crazy?” I asked myself as I faced oncoming traffic with my foot placed boldly in the crosswalk. I felt the breeze as vehicles came rushing past me in one attempt to cross at the crosswalk of Conway Rd. and Hargill Drive. An average of 18 cars roared through the crosswalk often swerving to ensure they didn’t hit me. Neither my time spent in DC nor NYC could paint a pedestrian nightmare like this. This is not what I signed up for…
That was my reaction the first day I measured yield rates. Let me back up. How do we measure yield rates? Well…we walk back and forth through each crosswalk twenty times, at three different times of day, recording how many cars did or did not yield. Although this may seem tedious to you, each intersection brings new hazards and shocking driver and pedestrian behaviors creating some interesting and memorable stories.
W. Michigan St. and Orange Avenue is a high pedestrian traffic corridor. I witnessed a lot of bad behavior, for example: pedestrians crossing at midblock, bikers weaving through stopped traffic at red lights, and mothers pushing their children in strollers diagonally through the intersection. I was the “goody-two-shoes” in the crosswalk trying to show a safer alternative.
Mark Twain Boulevard hosts a crosswalk that is part of a recreational trail and provides ample green space for dogs and dog owners. One particular dog caught my eye, and every so often I caught the precious pooch and her owner gazing my way. Normally as pedestrians and bikers pass by, they have not seen the 15 times I crossed the street beforehand, but now I have been caught. In this moment I feel obligated to explain myself to this woman and her dog that have watched my erratic, pacing behavior. She heads my way and before I can think of the right words to explain what I am doing she exclaims, “I sure hope they are paying you extra for this!” With a gracious smile and nod, she was off into the same direction she had come.
What is rewarding about these somewhat dangerous experiences are those drivers who obey the law. With direct eye contact, a soft smile, or the one fingered wave, a connection is made when a driver concedes their right-of-way. Through this motion a respect begins to form for the pedestrian and an acceptance of walking as a viable mode of transportation. This is the seed that blossoms into a changed mindset, and I get to be a part of that change on the micro level.