When going for a stroll anywhere around Tampa Bay, pedestrians should heed the cautionary advice to look both ways before crossing the street. Twice.
A national report named Tampa Bay the second most dangerous metro area for pedestrians, after only Orlando. From 2003-12, there were 874 pedestrians killed in this metro area. Jacksonville and the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area ranked third and fourth, respectively, on a list that no place wants to lead. The number of Florida metro areas ranked at the top suggests pedestrian safety is a statewide issue in an era where too many areas are designed with cars rather than pedestrians in mind.
The Florida Department of Transportation is well aware of the problem. It issued a report last year listing actions that can be taken to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety. Among the proposals are converting more intersections to roundabouts, installing raised medians and improving lighting at intersections. These are familiar strategies in Tampa Bay, but improving road conditions is not enough to guarantee pedestrian safety. Clearwater crossing guard Douglas Carey was killed by a speeding Cadillac that ran a red light. His death underscores the need for stricter enforcement and better driver education strategies.
The benefits of walking and biking-friendly communities range from improved health from exercising to lower carbon emissions to a better sense of place. Floridians should be able to walk and bike legally and safely without risking their lives, and smarter transportation planning and better public education are part of the solution.