Tuesday, August 16, 2011

NYT: On Wide Florida Roads, Running for Dear Life

Today's New York Times again highlights the dangers on Florida roadways for pedestrians due to our wide roads, suburban sprawl, and car-obsessed culture. The article is based on the Transportation for America report issued in May. Although it focuses on Orlando, high pedestrian fatalities rates also apply to Lee County and throughout Florida.


ORLANDO, Fla. — As any pedestrian in Florida knows, walking in this car-obsessed state can be as tranquil as golfing in a lightning storm. Sidewalks are viewed as perks, not necessities. Crosswalks are disliked and dishonored. And many drivers maniacally speed up when they see someone crossing the street.

Then there are the long, ever widening arterial roads — those major thoroughfares lined with strip malls built to move cars in and out of sprawling suburbs.

It is no wonder that four Florida metropolitan areas, led by the Orlando region, ranked as the most dangerous places to walk in the country, according to a recent survey by Transportation for America, a nonprofit safety advocacy organization.

“So much of Florida has been built up so quickly in that era of the automobile-oriented design; it’s this sort of the boomer phenomenon,” said David Goldberg, communications director for the organization. “The tendency there has been to build the big wide arterials; you have these long superblocks and you can get up to a good speed.”

The Orlando-Kissimmee region was first out of 52 in the rankings of most dangerous pedestrian regions, with more than 550 pedestrians killed from 2000 to 2009. This translates to an annual fatality rate of 3 per 100,000 people. Second was Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, followed by Jacksonville and Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach.

Researchers used 10 years of pedestrian fatality data and census figures to make their calculations relative to the amount of walking in a given area. Using that scale, New York City-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, home to the highest number of people who walk to work, is considered one of the safest cities for pedestrians. Anyone walking across Queens Boulevard may beg to differ.

Most of the metropolitan areas that fared poorly in the survey were in the South and Southwest, although California’s Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario section was fifth on the danger index.

Hispanic and black residents — people who are the least likely to own cars — suffered the highest pedestrian fatality rates, according to the report, published in late May and titled “Dangerous by Design.” Bus riders are particularly vulnerable, mostly because bus stops are often between intersections on long, wide roads and are far from stoplights. People race across to get to the other side, rather than walk (in steamy weather or after a long day’s work) a quarter- or half-mile to a stoplight.

Click here to continue reading the article.

Here's the coverage in Orlando paper on 8/16/11.

Here's a local story about Naples that ran on WINK News on 8/17/11.

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