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New nonprofit Walk Bike Tampa calls for zero-fatality transportation network

Tampa City Council member Lisa Montelione talks at a Walk Bike Tampa news conference Thursday with Valerie Jones and Donny Burnside, the mother and uncle of Alexis Miranda, a 17-year-old Chamberlain High School student killed trying to cross Busch Boulevard on Oct. 6.
Tampa City Council member Lisa Montelione talks at a Walk Bike Tampa news conference Thursday with Valerie Jones and Donny Burnside, the mother and uncle of Alexis Miranda, a 17-year-old Chamberlain High School student killed trying to cross Busch Boulevard on Oct. 6.
Published Oct. 30, 2015

TAMPA — What if you could redesign a road with a history of serious and fatal accidents — a road like Busch Boulevard — to be safer for drivers, pedestrians and people on bicycles?

It's possible, the new nonprofit Walk Bike Tampa said, and this community should be doing it.

Preventing all traffic fatalities, the group said Thursday, should be public officials' organizing principle when it comes to transportation planning, and they've got a model to follow: Vision Zero, a road-safety project from Sweden that has been adopted by New York, Los Angeles, Seattle and other U.S. cities. In every situation where a human might fail, say Vision Zero founders, the road system should not.

"When you design a system that is only focused on cars for generation after generation, people are really left to fend for themselves," said Hannah Strom, who formed Walk Bike Tampa in September with local transportation engineer Jackie Toledo. The Tampa Bay area is the nation's second-deadliest metro for pedestrians, she noted.

Supporters said a Vision Zero approach to a road like Busch Boulevard, which is under the jurisdiction of the Florida Department of Transportation, could include steps like lowering the speed limit, adding high-visibility crosswalks (a possibility being reviewed by the FDOT), adding medians and banning left turns to and from N Boulevard.

It was a driver in the left-hand turn lane who hit and killed 17-year-old Alexis Miranda on Oct. 6 as she crossed Busch Boulevard on her way to Chamberlain High School. No charges have been filed. The Hillsborough State Attorney's Office is reviewing the results of a Tampa police investigation into the accident.

"I just hope that something positive comes out of this tragedy," Valerie Jones, Alexis' mother, said during a Walk Bike Tampa news conference Thursday outside Tampa City Hall. "That way, I know my daughter's death wasn't in vain. I hope this is the answer."

Safe design "takes into account human error," Toledo said. "We know what works, and we are going to make it happen here."

Tampa City Council member Lisa Montelione said she would introduce a resolution Dec. 3 that, if passed, would support adopting a Vision Zero approach in Tampa. Hillsborough School Board member Cindy Stuart said she supports the school district taking a similar step.

But that's only the start, Montelione said. "What we need is more money."

Contact Richard Danielson at rdanielson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times.

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