Wednesday, January 23, 2019

BikeWalkLee's Statement on the 2019 Dangerous by Design Report: Assessment of Efforts in Lee County to Improve Pedestrian Safety and Future Improvements Needed

BWL issued a statement today in response to the 2019 Dangerous by Design Report.This statement looks at the extent to which Lee County jurisdictions and agencies are implementing safety improvements and where future improvements are needed by each of the jurisdictions, agencies, and stakeholders. We hope that the 2019 Report lights a fire under all those who can improve pedestrian safety. This metro area (Lee County), along with the entire state of Florida, can and must do more to reduce the number of people who die while walking every day on our roadways.

Jan. 23, 2019

Statement by BikeWalkLee to the 2019 Dangerous by Design Report: Assessment of Efforts in Lee County to Improve Pedestrian Safety and Future Improvements Needed

The just released “Dangerous by Design” 2019 report shows that our nation’s streets aren’t getting safer for pedestrians. While traffic deaths among motor vehicle occupants over this 10-year period (2008-2017) decreased by 6.1%, pedestrian deaths increased by 35.4%.  Pedestrian deaths have been steadily rising since 2009, reaching 6,000 deaths annually in 2016 and 2017. As a result, pedestrians now account for a larger proportion of traffic fatalities than they have in the past 33 years. 

Similar trends are evident in Florida and Lee County. Florida continues to be the most dangerous state in the country for pedestrians, with eight of the top 10 most dangerous metro areas in the country.  While the Cape Coral/Fort Myers metro area (Lee County) was ranked the worst in the country in the 2016 report, this year our area ranks the eighth worst in the country.  Although Lee County’s Pedestrian Danger Index (PDI) went down somewhat in real terms, our lower ranking compared to the 2016 report was primarily because other metro areas’ PDIs (all in Florida) had significant increases.

Efforts to make streets and roads safer have been underway statewide and in the various Florida metro areas, including Lee County, for almost a decade, but much work remains to be done, as under scored by this report. These results prove that desires and designs alone won’t make our streets safer – it takes the will to implement those designs and to back up those desires with the funds to make them a reality.
All Lee County jurisdictions and agencies can collectively either move forward to make our infrastructure safer for bikers and walkers, or accept higher pedestrian and cyclist death rates. More citizens are moving here.  Before long, new and old residents alike will begin to realize their quality of life is slipping because sufficient investments have not been made to make our roadways safer for everyone.  Now is the time to embrace change by funding a safer future. 
Why it matters
A chronic culture of danger for area walkers and cyclists threatens not only residents and visitors; it undercuts our economy; threatens our ability to attract and retain businesses, workers, and families to live and work here; undermines our tourism marketing; and underlines a growing safety gap driven by socioeconomic conditions and geographic patterns. 
However, investments in “Complete Streets” designs (road designs that take into account the needs and safety of ALL roadway users including cyclists and pedestrians) and bike/ped safety countermeasures not only make our streets safer for all users (including motorists), they make good economic sense.  Today, more and more people want to live and work in walkable communities, yet Lee County lags far behind in offering them. Research proves that sidewalks and shared use paths increase the value of homes in those neighborhoods. Bottom line: Investing in and maintaining walkable communities is a win/win strategy.
It is also important to understand that Complete Streets is not just about adding more sidewalks, shared use paths, and bike lanes.  It’s about making a paradigm shift—one that integrates land use and transportation planning, and changes the way we plan and design all our roads so that they’re safer for everyone, including pedestrians and cyclists. 
Proven pedestrian/bicycle safety steps
While expanding and connecting bike/ped infrastructure is an important component in making a community safer for walking and biking, many other roadway design and safety features are important for improving safety.
The most significant danger for pedestrians and cyclists is the speed of vehicles on the road, with the speed often determining whether the vulnerable road users is injured (and how seriously) or killed in any crashes with motor vehicles.  Thus, many safety countermeasures aim to reduce vehicle speed.**
The following sections of this report look at the extent to which Lee County jurisdictions and agencies are implementing safety improvements and future improvements needed. [Click here to read the rest of the BWL's Statement.]
The “Dangerous by Design” 2019 report, released by Smart Growth America on Jan. 23, is the fifth edition of the national bi-annual pedestrian safety report which ranks states and the 100 most populous metropolitan areas around the country based on how deadly they are for people walking.* [Link to 2019 Dangerous by Design Report]

*The report uses traffic deaths for the 10-year period of 2008-2017, and looks at how deadly it is for people to walk based on the number of people struck and killed by drivers while walking, controlling for the number of residents and the number of people that walk to work.

* *The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has identified 20 proven safety countermeasures that offer significant and measurable impacts to improving roadway safety, several of which are specifically targeted to safety for pedestrians and cyclists. (Source:
FHWA: Making our Roads Safer One Countermeasure at a Time (2018)

Some of the most important FHWA proven safety measures for reducing the number of fatal and serious injury crashes for pedestrians and cyclists are roundabouts, road diets, medians and pedestrian crossing islands, leading pedestrian intervals, and pedestrian hybrid beacons. The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) adds automated speed enforcement/red light cameras, and reducing speed limits on local roads (along with speed bumps) to this list. [
GHSA report: Speeding Away from Zero: Rethinking a Forgotten Traffic Safety Challenge, Jan. 2019.] 

2019 Dangerous by Design Report, with data on state rankings and the 100 largest metro areas rankings, along with other resources and an interactive map of 10 years of pedestrian fatalities.


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