Florida: Fairly Fatal for Peds and Cyclists

Evel Knievel (here in the 1970s in Fort Lauderdale) wore a special suit and helmet for his Florida biking. According to Transportation for America's (ToA's) new report Dangerous by Design, 43,000 pedestrians have been killed this decade (3,906 children under 16) due in part to roads and streets that are poorly designed, that is, mainly with cars instead of pedestrians in mind. And the deadliest of all metro areas is none other than Orlando, Florida, known as "O Town" and home to that mecca for kids known as DisneyWorld. But Florida's other main towns and metro areas don't fare much better in ToA's report.
Orlando - pretty, and pretty dangerous without a car. Photo via turtlemom4bacon via flickr.

Florida - a big fail on protecting pedestrians

As Transportation for America shows in its graphs of the 50 least safe metro areas to walk in in the U.S., some cities are failing pretty spectacularly when it comes to providing safe roads and streets for human-powered transportation. Orlando, Florida, as well as the metropolitan areas of Tampa/St. Petersburg, Miami/Fort Lauderdale, and Jacksonville, together take up the top four spots of "most dangerous U.S. cities to walk in." Orlando's pedestrian fatality rate is 2.9 per 100,000 residents (despite the fact that just 1.3 percent of the population walks to work.) When considering Florida's temperate climate and high number of sunny days, it seems unreal and absurd that being a pedestrian has become a dangerous sport.

Scary stats, pitiful spending

Transportation for America rues the fact that no state spends more than 5 percent of its federal transportation funds on the things that matter for pedestrians and cyclists: sidewalks, crosswalks, traffic calming, speed humps, multi-use paths, or safety programs. Enter complete streets. Lots of metro area governments and city councils have in the last few years adopted "complete streets" legislation of some sort or other, specifying that a portion of their transportation money will go to exactly those types of traffic calming measures. One problem, however, is that these regional efforts are not backed up by federal complete streets legislation. And once a state receives federal transportation funds, it is free to spend the money on whatever transport projects it wishes to. Transportation for America wants Congress to ensure that states spend their money wisely.It is not only ToA that finds Florida so dangerous for those not in their cars. Figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also ranks Florida as the nation's deadliest state for riding a bike - 119 cyclists killed in 2007.However, the human factor is almost as important as the infrastructure. As some research from Sweden has shown (and of course it is possible people are different in Sweden) more than 90 percent of traffic accidents occur because a vehicle driver is distracted by something -- cell phone, iPod switching, eating -- other than driving. So what's the answer? Perhaps evolving metro-area transport (at least) away from private vehicles and towards pod cars? Give us your input in the comments.Read more about pedestrian safety in TreeHugger:
Why Daylighting Crosswalks Improves Pedestrian Safety

Why Are They Called Accidents?
Our Car-Centric Built Environment is Killing Our Kids

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