Monday, March 1, 2010

USA Today: Fla. deadliest state for walkers, cyclists

By Larry Copeland, USA TODAY
MIAMI, Florida — Florida is the deadliest state in the U.S. for pedestrians — and bicyclists don't fare any better.

In 2008, the most recent year for which federal statistics are available, 11.1% of pedestrians and 17.4% of bicyclists killed in the U.S. died in the Sunshine State, which has 6% of the nation's population.

The top four of the 10 most dangerous metropolitan areas for walking are in Florida, according to a study last fall by two Washington, D.C.-based non-profit groups. The state has been in the top three in bicycle and pedestrian fatalities every year since 2001, federal data show.

The statistics perplex state officials. "There are so many factors involved and most of them are random," says Marianne Trussell, chief safety officer for Florida's Department of Transportation. "We're trying to figure out root causes and how we can fix it."

There's a debate over those causes: Is Florida so deadly for walkers and cyclists because of the behavior of drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists? Or because of inherent flaws in the way roads are designed and built?

....................Underlying these factors, transportation safety officials say, is behavior: "Somebody is doing something they shouldn't be doing," Trussell explains. "Drivers are making a right turn and not yielding to pedestrians, or making a right turn on red. Pedestrians are not paying attention to traffic, or they're crossing the street midblock instead of going to the intersection."

She takes issue with the November study by Transportation for America and the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership that spotlighted dangers to pedestrians in Florida. The study found pedestrians in Florida — and around the U.S. — are endangered by the nation's shift from development clustered around traditional streets to wide, high-speed roads designed to move thousands of vehicles.

"The roadways aren't as dangerous as the (study) would have made it seem," she says. "It's not the roads. The roads are just sitting there by themselves.".....

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