Region Focuses on Pedestrian Safety as 2019 Report Is Released

As Smart Growth America releases its latest 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. Read more news and facts from BFF coalition partners MetroPlan Orlando

Local elected officials and pedestrian safety advocates are constantly evaluating efforts to make Central Florida’s streets safer for people who walk.

Regional efforts have been ongoing for more than a decade, with a concerted push since the 2012 formation of the Best Foot Forward (BFF) Coalition for Pedestrian Safety. This coalition includes local government officials, transportation planners, law enforcement, and others working through BFF to coordinate Central Florida’s pedestrian safety efforts with a Triple E approach – Education, Engineering, and Enforcement.

One of the original drivers for BFF’s formation was a report in 2009 called Dangerous by Design, from Smart Growth America, in which Florida and several urban areas including the Orlando metropolitan area ranked at the top of the list of most dangerous urban areas for pedestrians. The 2019 version of the report was released this week, and the Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford metro area is again ranked at the top.

Locally, however, progress is being made as the region works together for pedestrian safety.

Our updated pedestrian fact sheet gives more information about the work that continues in Central Florida.

Pedestrian Safety Fact Sheet – 2019

From 2017 to 2018, pedestrian fatalities dropped from 85 to 70 (17.6% decrease). In the same period, Central Florida’s three-county population grew by 139,588 people.

MetroPlan Orlando and its partners have always been committed to making Central Florida roads safe for everyone, and that work is ongoing. Since the launch of BFF, which expanded from Orange into Osceola County in late 2017, the percentage of drivers yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks has improved significantly. Local governments have also allocated funding to dozens of projects such as lighting, sidewalks, and wheelchair accessible features that make walking safer and easier.

“We’re committed to continuing to tackle this complex issue for as long as it takes,” said MetroPlan Orlando Executive Director Gary Huttmann. “We can accomplish great things when we unite as a region.”

For more insight into Best Foot Forward and its Triple E approach to improving pedestrian safety, see the coalition’s website.

Dangerous by Design reports were released by Smart Growth America in 2009, 2011, 2014, 2017, and 2019. Our metropolitan region, along with other communities throughout Florida, repeatedly rank among the most dangerous for pedestrians in the nation in this report. The report’s Pedestrian Danger Index only takes people who walk to work into account, excluding transit riders (who are pedestrians), recreational walkers, and the more than 70 million tourists who visit Central Florida annually and also walk to get around.

Talkin’ ped safety with the South Apopka Safe Neighborhood

Shout out to the South Apopka Safe Neighborhood for allowing us to join their January meeting to talk about all things BFF. During the presentation, BFFer Amanda Day provided information about the Florida driver yield law and stressed the importance of always stopping for pedestrians in crosswalks. As with most of our BFF presentations, the “speech” part quickly gave way to a great discussion about pedestrian safety concerns in the South Apopka area.

Meeting participants shared their thoughts about problem intersections and changes that they’ve seen in their neighborhoods, which is shared with our BFF Steering Committee (made up of people in Central Florida transportation planning, engineering, education and enforcement).

Many thanks to this group for the warm welcome and great conversation. If you are part of a local HOA, rotary club, chamber of commerce, church group, running club or other community group who welcomes speakers, we’d love to come and chat with you. Please email Candace at [email protected] for more information.

Take your time – Always look for pedestrians

In a recent Orlando Sentinel column, a local resident shared that they were “ticked off” that drivers were taking too long to drive after a light turns green:

“I get super ticked off when people wait 3-5 seconds after the light turns green to move their car usually followed by lollygagging driving speed. I totally understand taking a last look to make sure no one is running the red light but that’s way too long. This is one reason traffic goes nowhere fast. Get on it people!”

Look, we get it – a green light means go, and we’ve all got places to be. But did you know that green turning arrows often change at the same time that pedestrians receive a walk signal? Drivers may get annoyed when cars wait a few seconds to go, but it doesn’t hurt to take an extra moment to check out your surroundings before hitting the gas.

A “green means go” mentality isn’t the only problem. Many cars in the United States are built with a blind spot between the front windshield and side windows, just big enough to block a person walking from view. So, it’s no surprise that nationwide, left turns are responsible for a quarter of all ped crashes.

Some say the problem ties back to how planners design communities, not roads. Trying to navigate a pedestrian or cyclist through a six-lane roadway or across a 55-MPH street is difficult regardless of blind spots and streetlight timing. Creating neighborhoods with walkers, bikers and public transit in mind, instead of cars, is the best way to eliminate these unnecessary traffic deaths. So, while our local planners and engineers work to change our road design, let’s work to change our driving culture. We can all afford an extra 3-5 seconds to be alert to other road users.

Make 2019 the year you improve your city

With 2018 in the books, many are beginning their list of New Year’s resolutions. Instead of sticking to the norm, why not think about making goals based on the city you live in and love?

A recent article from Fast Company highlights resolutions to not only improve yourself, but also your community.

Here are some that embodied Best Foot Forward principles:

  • “Lobby your leaders for improvements to support more choices, like better infrastructure and slower speed limits.”
  • “Take every opportunity you can to participate in civic life. Linger in and enjoy good parks, places, and streets every day, not just during special events. Your very presence and engagement adds life, vitality, and safety to a place, and helps them be more enjoyable for everyone.”
  • “Open your eyes to whether your city is truly accessible for everyone–every curb cut or lack thereof–for the disabled, people of all ages, and for every parent with a stroller. Find ways to travel a mile in their shoes or chairs, and listen to them. Then amplify their voices in calling for improvements.”
  • “Get involved with (or create) community and advocacy organizations, especially ones that are for things, not just against things.”

Head to Fast Company for the full list.