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Earlier this month, Amanda Day, Executive Director of Bike/Walk Central Florida took to the radio waves to help educate people about pedestrian and bicycle safety. She interviewed with Cox Media Radio here in Orlando to discuss the importance of the newly released Dangerous by Design report and how we can all work to make the roads safer for bicyclists, pedestrians and drivers.
According to Day, the mission of Bike/Walk Central Florida is to make biking and walking on Orlando-area streets a normal thing.
Day talked about the most recent Dangerous by Design report from Smart Growth America, released in January. It listed the Orlando metro area (Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford) as the most dangerous place in the country for people who walk. Day went in-depth into how the “Pedestrian Danger Index” is calculated, and why, for example: Central Florida ranks higher than other cities like New York.
Central Florida saw a big boom after World War II, when engineers were specifically designing roads for cars. Their goal was to get drivers across longer distances faster, so they could live in the suburbs and drive to their destinations. The problem now: how do you reconcile roads with speeds of 45 mph and people who need to cross eight lanes of traffic to get to the grocery store? This type of change will take time.
We must also work to change the way we speak and think about travelers of all kinds, Day said. At one point, Day gave this example, “As drivers, we think, ‘why is that crazy pedestrian trying to cross the road right now!” And as pedestrians, we think, “doesn’t that driver see me? Why isn’t he slowing down?”
Day also highlighted the program, Best Foot Forward for Pedestrian Safety, which is made up of a coalition of government officials, law enforcement, schools, local health professionals and more. She discussed the specific goal of BFF: getting more drivers to stop for pedestrians in marked crosswalks. BFF uses a three-pronged approach of Education, Enforcement and Engineering to help make pedestrians safer on Central Florida streets. For BFF, Day said, it’s all about incremental behavior change. “Think about New Year’s resolutions,” she said. “We make these big, grand statements that we only follow for a few weeks for months. Behavior change has to be small and incremental.”
Day said she is encouraged by the changes she has seen over the past few years, including significant engineering changes, and an eagerness from public officials to help address the problem. The Complete Streets program is a major example of that.