Operation BFF: A Tale of Two (kinds of) Crosswalks

Last week Orlando Police Department (OPD) officers and Orange County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) deputies hit the streets for Operation Best Foot Forward. Their goal: to raise drivers’ awareness about Florida law, which requires drivers to yield or stop for pedestrians in marked crosswalks.

How Operation BFF works:

Before an operation, our Best Foot Forward (BFF) Steering Committees choose which crosswalks BFF will monitor and enforce throughout the year. Often, the crosswalks are in high-crash corridors or where engineering improvements are planned, but haven’t been implemented.

During Operation BFF, a plainclothes deputy or officer walks across the marked crosswalk, giving drivers ample time to stop for him or her. If drivers don’t obey the law, uniformed enforcement pulls them over and gives them a $164 citation and 3 points on their license.

This time, OPD and OCSO enforced six different crosswalks… and got very different results.

At Rio Grande & 40th

Let’s set the scene for you. It’s just past morning rush hour, but it seems like it’s always rush hour on Rio Grande Avenue. Cars are zooming past, going much faster than the 35-mph speed limit. No less than six people need to cross the street to get to one of three bus stops – all within sight. An elderly woman tells the plainclothes deputy she’s headed to the grocery store. Together, they use the marked crosswalk to get her to her bus stop. Two cars blast through the crosswalk ahead of them, and one passes just behind them as they’re crossing. They don’t notice the newly painted crosswalks or the new signage warning drivers of people crossing. Only some notice the uniformed deputies as they guide the drivers to a side street to issue citations. In about 90 minutes of Operation BFF enforcement, 16 drivers are ticketed for not obeying Florida’s driver yield law.

Similar crosswalks enforced:

Metrowest & Metrocenter Blvd: 27 citations by OPD

Pine Hills & El Trio Way: 15 citations by OCSO

 

At Edgewater & Shady Lane

It’s a steamy, Florida morning with a beautiful sunrise. Dozens of people are out walking along Edgewater in the College Park neighborhood. They’re out for a jog, walking to get a cup of coffee before work, heading to the bus stop, or wherever else they need to go. A woman in professional dress, with a tote bag over her shoulder and a cup of coffee in hand, presses the crosswalk button at Edgewater and Shady Lane. Flashing strobe lights immediately come to life on both sides of the street, warning drivers that someone is crossing the road. A sign points drivers to stop behind a painted white line a good distance back from the actual crosswalk. Orlando police officers observe the scene as drivers stop to let the woman cross… no tickets will be issued this time. In fact, in nearly two hours of enforcement, OPD only issued four citations—that’s a win!

Similar crosswalks enforced:

Americana & Texas: 2 citations by OCSO

Apopka-Vineland north of Lake St: 8 citations by OCSO

The attention-getting Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons you are seeing more frequently at crosswalks are not inexpensive. But they are a proven way to get drivers’ attention and make the road safer for everyone, especially pedestrians. The city of Orlando recently reconfigured the crosswalk at Edgewater & Shady lane, to make it more visible to drivers—and it worked. It’s a great example of how good engineering and law enforcement working hand in hand can create safer places. Similar changes are planned for the crosswalk at Rio Grande & 40th where nearby residents of a nearby senior living facility say they can’t wait.

Operation BFF is a vital part of Best Foot Forward’s three-pronged approach: education, low-cost engineering and high-visibility enforcement. Our data has shown that a visible law enforcement presence makes a difference in the number of drivers who yield for people in crosswalks—even weeks after the enforcement action has ended.

Five local television stations: WFTV, WESH, WKMG, Fox35, Spectrum News13 came out to cover the event and spread the word about pedestrian safety. We had people talking on a number of radio stations as well.

Congratulations to all our Operation BFF partners on a job well done.

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