Members of Lee County Legislative Delegation:
BikeWalkLee is a community coalition raising public awareness and advocating for complete streets in Lee County. We work for streets that are designed, built, operated and maintained for safe and convenient travel for all users: pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities. In our December 1, 2009 letter and our December 15th presentation to the Lee Legislative Delegation, we asked you to consider a list of specific actions to address the epidemic of preventable deaths of pedestrians and cyclists throughout Florida.
In support of our proposed legislative language to provide pedestrian/bicycle projects a “fair share” of federal highway safety funds, I have just completed a study, “Analysis of Florida’s Highway Safety Programs, Pedestrian/Bicycle Safety Improvements and Recommendations for Action.” (See full report.) This report found that our most vulnerable road users are being short-changed. A significant share of the funding provided to Florida for safety improvements has been diverted to protect the Florida Department of Transportation’s (FDOT) highway road projects from obligation authority shortfalls.
In addition, the state’s 2006 five-year strategic highway safety plan, which made vulnerable road users (pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists) one of its four focus areas, did not set workable performance measures. In addition, the plan is not driving FDOT’s spending on safety and there has been little follow-through or accountability for implementing the plan. The data shows that roadways are just as dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists in 2010 as they were in 2006.
Based on these findings, BikeWalkLee believes a greater commitment to safety by Florida elected officials and agency leaders is needed. The need for budget-neutral legislative language to bring more resources to reducing pedestrian/bicycle fatalities is reinforced by this report, and could be addressed by these two components:
· FDOT must be required to allocate all the federal safety funds (both the annual federal allocation and any balance forward from previous years) for safety improvement projects, ending the practice of using these funds to meet FDOT “obligating constraints.”
· Safety projects for pedestrians and bicyclists should receive their fair share of safety funds. Since these users made up 21% of all traffic fatalities in Florida (2008), 21% of these funds should be targeted to pedestrian/bicycle safety improvement projects.
In addition to this legislative language, we urge you to consider the following additional budget-neutral actions that can improve the safety for all road users, especially pedestrians and cyclists:
· Urge FDOT to aggressively promote “complete streets” as a statewide approach for design and operations of roadways. Streets that are designed, built, operated and maintained for safe and convenient travel for all users (including pedestrians and bicyclists) are safer for everyone.
· Enact the strongest legislation possible to prohibit texting while driving.
· Urge FDOT to issue the long-overdue updated road design standards to reflect the latest guidelines for accommodating bicyclists, pedestrians and transit users.
· Reinstate a state-level Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Board that would make recommendations to elected officials and FDOT.
· Encourage another Florida Safety Summit to develop Florida’s next five-year plan with goals to reduce traffic pedestrian/bicyclist fatalities by at least 50 percent to bring Florida in line with the national average.
Finally, FDOT should be required to provide the public with easily accessible and updated information on all transportation projects, activities, plans, reports, and outcomes. This is best done on the FDOT website. The public should know where its transportation dollars are going, and what progress the state is making in improving the safety for all road users.
As Lee County embarks on implementation of its recently adopted complete streets policies aimed at making our streets safer for everyone, it will need the support and leadership of state government. We look forward to working with you during the upcoming legislative session on actions that will improve the safety of vulnerable users of Florida’s roadways. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions: firstname.lastname@example.org, or 239-472-1179.
Again, the report is available online . Thank you for your attention to this important issue.