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Having grown up in Central Florida, I am no stranger to dangerous walking conditions. However, when I studied abroad in Madrid, Spain, I quickly realized that it’s not easy to travel on foot, no matter where you are in the world. But what makes it so much more dangerous here than in one of the busiest cities in Europe? That was the question on my mind when I participated in my first Operation Best Foot Forward with Bike/Walk Central Florida.

Now I know that making a comparison between Spain’s center of commerce and our metropolitan hometown is a bit of a stretch, but let me break it down for you.

  • Madrid was an established city long before the City of Orlando ever saw the light of day – 280 years before to be more specific. So, maybe they’ve just had more practice.
  • Spain has regulations regarding the driver-walker relationship, and, while Florida does too, Spain’s laws are strictly enforced. I witnessed first-hand drivers and walkers stopped by law enforcement for not abiding by these laws in Madrid.
    • To learn more about the transportation laws in Madrid, click here (translated in English).
  • Every mode of transportation imaginable is used in Madrid, so drivers are accustomed to slowing down and stopping for people, bikes, mopeds, buses, etc. In Central Florida, however, we get ticked off if there is a single biker using a traffic lane.
  • There is a common theme – whether it’s texting, talking, or eating on-the-go, distracted driving negatively affects both continents.

I’m not saying Europe is perfect – they operate differently than what Americans have grown accustomed to. Europe built its cities around the most basic function that humans have: walking. They don’t incorporate functionality into the designs, they seem to build designs around the functionality.

Getting the opportunity to participate in Operation Best Foot Forward opened my eyes to the importance of functional systems even more than my experience in Madrid. It reminded me how far we’ve come, but how far we still have to go to create safer, walk-able streets that accommodate more than just drivers.


-Day Communications/ BWCF Intern, Jocelyn Nance

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