[tabi] from today's Democrat: article on pedestrian safety

  • From: "Allison and Chip Orange" <acorange@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 11 Jan 2010 08:08:49 -0500

January 10, 2010

National study shows Tallahassee is dangerous for pedestrians
By Jeff Burlew
Senior Government Editor

Tom Baxter knows firsthand how dangerous Tallahassee roads can be for
Baxter, 63, walks downtown visiting various courts every work day as part of
job as a librarian for the Florida Attorney General's law library. Drivers
have honked
and yelled at him and one even ran into him as he was walking along the
on Duval Street a few years ago. He wasn't hurt, but he doesn't walk that
of Duval anymore.
"It's the drivers - they don't pay attention," Baxter said.
A recent national report points to another danger facing pedestrians in
and across the U.S. - streets designed more for speeding cars than people on
The "Dangerous by Design" report, prepared by the Surface Transportation
Policy Partnership
and Transportation for America, found that Tallahassee pedestrians face
almost double
the risk of walkers in the U.S. as a whole.
The Tallahassee metropolitan area, which comprises Gadsden, Leon, Jefferson
and Wakulla
counties, had a total of 14 pedestrian deaths and 284 pedestrian injuries
over 2007
and 2008.
The report gave the Tallahassee area a "pedestrian-danger index" of 109.4,
more than
twice the national number of 52.1. The index, a measure of the relative risk
of walking,
is calculated by dividing the average pedestrian fatality rate over the 2007
2008 by the percentage of residents who walk to work.
Florida as a whole fared even worse in the report. The four most dangerous
areas for walkers in the U.S. are all in Florida. No. 1 was Orlando,
followed by
Tampa, Miami and Jacksonville. The pedestrian-danger index for all of
Florida was
Leon County Commission Chairman Bob Rackleff calls the dangers facing
"a slow-motion crisis." He said that while motorist fatalities have been
falling for the last three decades, pedestrian deaths have stayed the same
or gone
"And that's because of the neglect of pedestrian-safety programs and our
to understand the real infrastructure needs," he said. "It's not just
Sidewalks are obviously critical. But where we've failed utterly is in
Rackleff points to Apalachee Parkway at Magnolia Drive as a prime example of
a road
that's almost impossible to cross safely. Walkers must cross six or more
lanes of
traffic to get to the other side. And while there are pedestrian "push
buttons" to
help walkers get across, there are no pedestrian refuges halfway across the
which was recently redesigned by the Florida Department of Transportation.
said the city also needs more crosswalks in the middle of blocks in places
such as
North Monroe near Lake Ella.
"We're very careless when it comes to accommodating pedestrians with
infrastructure," Rackleff said.
The "Dangerous by Design" report found that nationwide, less than 1.5
percent of
money under the federal transportation law, called the Safe, Accountable,
Efficient Transportation Equity Act, has gone toward pedestrian- and
projects. It also found that no state spends more than 5 percent of
money on sidewalks, crosswalks, traffic calming and other amenities for
and walkers.
The report calls for more traffic-calming features, including pedestrian
better road geometry and signals that give pedestrians a head start when
the street. It also calls for "Complete Street" designs featuring sidewalks,
paths, comfortable bus stops and frequent crosswalks.
Tallahassee is taking steps toward making streets friendlier for bikers and
Blueprint 2000, a city/county partnership that's making road, greenway and
improvements through proceeds from a 1 percent sales tax, is including
bicycle lanes
and sidewalks on both sides of the road for all of its projects.
Crosswalks are being built with pedestrian push buttons, said Dave Bright,
2000 project manager.
About 46 miles of bike lanes or sidewalks have been constructed or will be
as part
of Capital Circle widening. Stormwater ponds are being turned into parks
with walking
trails, and Cascade Park planned for downtown will have 2.3 miles of trails
and sidewalks,
he said.
"I think we're doing all we can do" to accommodate walkers and bicyclists,
The city and county are receiving $1.8 million in federal stimulus money for
And the county has applied for $40 million in federal grant money for
Rackleff said.
Steve Shafer, city engineer, said that the city has been focusing more and
more on
bike lanes, sidewalks and other amenities over the past couple of decades.
The city
has spent a couple of million dollars over the past few years to make
sidewalks more
accessible for people with disabilities. Some $4 million was spent on
sidewalks and
other improvements in the Bond community, and another $3 million will be
spent for
similar improvements in the Providence neighborhood.
Shafer said the city is completing a study of West Tennessee Street to make
it safer
for pedestrians. That could mean closing the outer lanes to traffic during
hours, though that would have to be approved by FDOT. He said the city is
signals on West Tennessee to slow down the flow of traffic. The city also
spent $10,000 for a pedestrian crosswalk and island in midtown at
Thomasville Road
and Fifth Avenue.
Tallahassee residents said inattentive drivers pose the biggest danger to
John Plescow, a Tallahassee resident with visual impairment, said drivers
are downright
hostile to pedestrians.
"I've been in the crosswalk with my white cane, and I've had cars pull
said Plescow, who works for the Public Service Commission. "I've had people
at me for being in the crosswalk even though I have the right of way. And
then there
are the general problems - not many sidewalks, roads with very small
shoulders and
Plescow said he's also concerned about StarMetro's planned decentralization
called Nova 2010, which he said will force people to cross major roads to
catch buses.
Michael Carlucci said he was almost run down Wednesday while crossing West
at Ocala Road. He said dangerous conditions for pedestrians are a symptom of
a deeper
"Our lack of connection with each other, our community and our environment
is far
scarier to me," he said. "This fellow in his isolated metal box simply was
not aware
that there was anyone out there besides him."

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