FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Ken Bryan, RTC Florida Field Office Director
PEDESTRIAN SAFETY REPORT RANKS FLORIDA CITIES AS MOST DANGEROUS:
Campaign for Active Transportation More Critical Than Ever
A new national report released Monday, Nov. 9, 2009, ranks four Florida cities as the most dangerous for pedestrians in the United States. Topping a list of 52 cities with the most walking fatalities are Orlando-Kissimmee, Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, and Jacksonville, according to Dangerous by Design from Transportation for America and the Surface Transportation Policy Project. The report analyzes metro areas with populations of more than 1 million, from 2007 to 2008, and concludes that design—or lack thereof—is a major contributor to pedestrian casualties in densely packed, high-speed traffic areas with little to no walking amenities or safety considerations such as crosswalks and sidewalks.
Three of the four cities, as well as 23 others that make the list, are communities participating in Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's (RTC) Campaign for Active Transportation—an initiative aimed at doubling the federal investment in trails, walking and biking for safer, more accessible alternatives to automobile travel.
"These same Florida communities have occupied the report's top five spots for the better part of a decade," says RTC Florida Field Office Director Ken Bryan, referring to the report's previous incarnation as the Mean Streets Report. Supporting statistics are equally distressing. Again in 2007, Florida leads all states in pedestrian and bicycle fatalities, and pedestrians are twice as likely to be struck and killed by a vehicle in Florida, on average, than any other state—and if you're a bicyclist, you fare even worse. "At what point do we say 'enough is enough' and begin to hold the Florida Department of Transportation to task to focus on bicycle/pedestrian issues and funding sources? It's time for profound change," says Bryan.
The overlay of at-risk cities with Active Transportation Campaign communities is no accident. "Many communities that have joined the Active Transportation Campaign have done so to take themselves off lists like this one and create for their citizens new, safer and healthier transportation choices," says RTC President Keith Laughlin. "We would hope that this report and the commitment of Florida communities to dig themselves out of this sad status quo would encourage Florida's DOT to elevate its Pedestrian and Bicycle Program and solicit statewide citizen input on walkable urban planning and design."
RTC is suggesting four easy, low- or no-cost changes that Florida DOT could immediately implement to begin saving lives and making improvements for Floridians and visitors alike.
- Reinstate a statewide citizen advisory committee for pedestrian and bicyclist input;
- Empower the Pedestrian and Bicycle Coordinator for meaningful involvement in all planning levels, including input and inclusion in the Florida Strategic Intermodal System Plan;
- Elevate the Pedestrian and Bicycle Program within in the department to better facilitate coordination across divisions and districts;
- Include in any new regional transit connection the necessary trails, sidewalks and bike lanes that connect the system to where people live, work, play and learn in the early planning stages and budget for them accordingly.
Florida's governor and legislature plan on hosting a special state legislative session in December for securing $2 billion in federal transportation funds. RTC encourages Florida citizens to act now and contact the Florida Senate and House and DOT leadership to request that they improve walking and bicycling conditions for Florida and include trails, walking and bicycling facilities as an important component of any new mass transit system.
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a nonprofit organization with more than 100,000 members and supporters, is the nation's largest trails organization dedicated to connecting people and communities by creating a nationwide network of public trails, many from former rail lines and connecting corridors. Founded in 1986, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's national office is located in Washington, D.C., with regional offices in California, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. For more information visit www.railstotrails.org.