Operation Best Foot Forward Works to Keep Pedestrians and Drivers Safe

7 crosswalks. More than 40 law enforcement officers. 62 traffic stops. 50 citations given. Countless lives saved

This was the result of the most recent Operation Best Foot Forward in Orange County and Orlando. Operation BFF is a high-visibility enforcement action, where the Best Foot Forward coalition targets a number of marked crosswalks in order to remind drivers to stop for pedestrians crossing the street, as Florida law requires.

Here are pictures from the March 20 Operation BFF.

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It’s a big operation. Before the traffic tickets start flying, the BFF coalition comes together. These meetings include planners and engineers at the city, county and regional level, as well as officers, deputies and school officials who make recommendations for crosswalks that need enforcement. But it’s not that easy. Often our team will go out into the neighborhoods and meet with residents to hear their concerns and help educate them on Florida laws. Next our data collectors go out an observe all the potential crosswalks. They have a strict set of criteria to decide if a crosswalk is enforceable. Drivers must be able to see the pedestrian and have enough distance to safely stop based on the speed of the road. Deputies must have a safe place to pull drivers over and issue citations. Many other factors come into play, but once the group decides on the crosswalks and the date—they hit the streets.

Law enforcement have a “decoy” or plainclothes deputy, or officer walk across the street in the crosswalk. If drivers don’t stop like they should, they get a $164 reminder. One of the benefits of Operation BFF is that it can show a need for engineering changes. One crosswalk was chosen this time because it was recently moved. Testing was needed to see if the engineering improvements are working.

A big part of enforcement operations is getting the media to help spread the word. ultimate goal is awareness—getting more drivers to stop for people in crosswalks and media coverage certainly furthers that mission.

Crosswalks Enforced on March 20 Operation BFF

Alafaya Dr. & University Blvd.

Lancaster Rd. & Voltaire Dr.

Pine Hills Rd. & midblock crossing near Alhambra Dr.

Pine Hills Rd. & El Trio Way

Westwood Blvd. & midblock near I-Drive

Central Blvd. & Rosearden Dr.

70 W. Gore St.

 

Operation BFF a Social Success

This morning dozens of local police officers and sheriff’s deputies hit the streets for the year’s first Operation Best Foot Forward. It’s just one part of BFF’s mission to make the streets of Central Florida safer for both drivers and walkers. One of the goals of a high-visibility enforcement, or Crosswalk Crackdown, is to educate drivers about Florida law– you have to stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk. Thanks to all our parters in the BFF Coalition and the media for spreading the word!

During Operation BFF, law enforcement works in small teams. A plainclothes deputy, or “decoy”, walks across a marked crosswalk. He checks to see which drivers don’t stop like Florida law requires, then he radios to his uniformed partners who pull drivers over and hand out $164 citations.

Best Foot Forward works with city planners, engineers and law enforcement to decide which crosswalks need an enforcement action. Then our team of data collectors scouts out potential locations. They track driver yield rates, make sure it’s safe for the decoy, and there’s a safe place to pull drivers over. This time, we were at lots of crosswalks near schools, or a local college.

 

Because our partners helped spread the word, we’re pretty sure more drivers paid attention and stopped for pedestrians in marked crosswalks today… at least we hope so.

Zombie Traffic Lights: A New Pedestrian Safety Tech that Doesn’t Bite

Officials in Israel are working to protect people who are so engrossed in their phones, that they’re “unknowingly” stepping out into traffic.

Sound a bit extreme? We thought so too. But I guess this is a big problem in Tel Aviv. So we say, “Power to you, Israeli officials! Thanks for the new invention we can soon bring to America.”

There’s even a name for people who are so absorbed in their screens, they ignore their surroundings: “smartphone zombies.” (it’s a real thing, check Wikipedia)

Like distracted driving, distracted walking takes your focus off the most important task: safely getting where you’re going. In response to this uniquely twenty-first century concern, Tel Aviv’s engineering department is testing a new technology aimed at stopping these distracted pedestrians in their tracks, The Times of Israel reports.

Dubbed a “zombie stop light,” it’s an LED light strip installed in the sidewalk, that flashes the color of the upcoming stoplight: red and green. The idea is, people literally don’t have to look up from their Facebook feeds before walking into traffic (or stopping for the light).

Anyone else feel a little uneasy about this? I mean, if I’m walking along, I would like for other people to be watching where they’re going… you know… so they don’t run smack into me?! (or a dog, or one of those cute outdoor restaurant tables, spilling wine all over the couple on their first date)

Though only in the trial stage in Tel Aviv, similar traffic devices can be found on crosswalks in Europe, China, and Australia. According to The Washington Post, the Dutch town of Bodergraven-Reeuwijk piloted these pedestrian stop lights in 2017.

Some safety groups fought against this new technology, arguing that these devices only encouraged distracted walking. Officials responded by defending the technology, saying, “As a government, we probably can’t reverse this trend, but we can anticipate problems.”

All right, all right. I guess you have a point, government officials.

Though zombie traffic lights have yet to find their way to the U.S., distracted walking’s impact on pedestrian safety is certainly a growing concern. The Governors Highway Safety Association reports that the national number of pedestrian fatalities is at its highest in decades, and distracted driving and walking were both listed as potential factors contributing to this number.

Perhaps soon we’ll be able to put our Best Foot Forward, right across zombie traffic lights along Park Avenue in Winter Park, or down I-Drive.

Osceola celebrates residents at Community Appreciation Day

On a regular day, Osceola County Sheriff’s Office deputies are usually the ones in charge of toning down an unruly crowd, but don’t let them fool you: when it comes to celebrating their residents, this group knows how to throw a party. For the second year in a row, Best Foot Forward joined OCSO for family fun, food and festivities at their annual Community Appreciation Day event.

The OCSO grounds were packed with vendors and organizations from all across Osceola County, including BFF partners from the City of Kissimmee and Kissimmee Police Department. OCSO Sheriff Russ Gibson and Kissimmee Mayor Jose Alvarez were there for all of the action, taking a quick moment to pause for a smile with our popular BFF “i Yield 4 Peds” magnets while chatting about the next enforcement action (heads up – it’s planned for the end of March).

BFF representatives talked to residents about the BFF program, pedestrian safety and areas in their neighborhood that they are concerned about. That information will be shared with partners during the monthly Steering Committee meetings. Kids who came by the table scored comic books, stickers and bookmarks if they shared their street smarts.

Our kid’s wheel caught the eye of Positively Osceola’s Cole Harvey, who stopped by to give it a go. The rules? Spin the wheel and answer a safety question for a prize. Cole knew that you have to stop for people crossing the street in marked crosswalks but learned that failing to do so will hurt your wallet: a $166 citation in Osceola and three points on your driver’s license. You can watch his Facebook Live video about it here.

From start to finish, there wasn’t a dull moment with this group. Luckily, those who filled up on hot dogs and candy were able to burn a few extra calories thanks to an impromptu end-of-event dance party – the perfect way to end an eventful day. Thank you to our partners at OCSO for allowing us to join and celebrate the wonderful residents of Osceola.

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Helping People to Make the Most of Life After 50

How to make the best of life after 50, that was the topic of a recent segment on Fox35 The News Station. Bob Frier talked with Amanda Day, Executive Director of Bike/Walk Central and part of the Best Foot Forward coalition, Florida, Griselle Colon-Wright of the Orlando Sentinel and Robin Hauck of EF Go Ahead Tours ahead of the 2nd annual Orlando Prime Expo.

“According to AARP, we outlive our ability to drive by about ten years,” Day said. “That’s why it’s so important to teach people about all their transportation options, including walking and public transportation like SunRail or LYNX.”

At the Expo, Bike/Walk Central Florida teamed up with our sponsor FDOT to give away 300 bicycle helmets throughout the day, and a bicycle every hour.

Day discussed Central Florida’s great trail network that makes a great option for people wanting get out an exercise in a safe, beautiful environment. The Prime Expo was held at the Orange County Convention Center on Saturday, February 23.