Best Foot Forward Launched to Improve Pedestrian Safety

i yield 4 pedsA unique community-wide coalition, including multiple mayors, law enforcement officials and community leaders, recently got together to launch Best Foot Forward (BFF), a comprehensive program to make local streets safer for walkers and drivers.

Supported in part by a $108,250 grant from the Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF) through its Community Health and Older Adults Work Groups, BFF hopes to unseat Metro Orlando from its position as number one in the nation for pedestrian deaths and injuries. On average, a pedestrian is killed every week and two are injured every day.

“We start today, before anyone else gets hurt,” said Linda Chapin, coalition chair. “After all, whether we drive, bike, or ride the bus as our primary transportation, we’re all  pedestrians at some point every day. It’s time for us to put our best foot forward, and make it a habit to look out for each other as we walk and drive on our streets.”

The coalition, an initiative of Bike/Walk Central Florida (BWCF), is spearheaded by Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and funded by the WPHF, MetroPlan Orlando, the Orlando Police Department, Orange Cycle, David’s World Cycle, and Track Shack.

The Center for Education and Research in Safety (CERS) was commissioned to help BWCF implement its “Triple E” approach, to reducing pedestrian injuries and deaths. Triple E combines engineering (signs and crosswalks), education, and enforcement to increase driver compliance with crosswalk laws, to prompt pedestrians to make safe use of crosswalks, and reduce the risk of roadway user injuries and fatalities in Metro Orlando.

Short-term, success will be measured by the percentage of drivers yielding to pedestrians at crosswalks. The ultimate measure of success, however, will be the reduction of pedestrian deaths and injuries. The group has established a goal of a 10% annual reduction in pedestrian deaths and injuries – initially within Orange County, but ultimately within the entire Orlando-Kissimmee MSA.

The community education campaign takes a three-pronged approach, targeting drivers, walkers and educators:

I Yield 4 Peds is focused on raising awareness of Florida’s law requiring drivers to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, and aims to increase the percentage of drivers obeying the law.

WalkWise aims to get more pedestrians using crosswalks.

WalkSafe is a Sunshine State Standards compliant curriculum for grades K-5 developed by the University of Miami Miller School and used in Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Orange County Public Schools is considering the use of the WalkSafe program curriculum for the 12-13 school year.

On May 30, law enforcement agencies in Orange County, led by the Orlando Police Department and the Orange County Sheriff’s office, began using a system of escalating consequences, starting with general driver awareness and progressing from warning fliers to moving violations. As part of Operation Best Foot Forward, officers will be setting up enforcement operations throughout the region and stopping drivers who fail to yield as the law requires. Enforcement operations will target drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians in marked crosswalks.

WPHF has had a hand in local efforts to improve civility and safety on roadways since 2007 when it sought ideas from the public on the best ways to make it easier for the public to lead healthful lives. One resident suggested people would walk and cycle more if roadways were safer and more civil.

Since then, WPHF has supported and participated in the creation of a civility coalition to study the issue, provided support for a study on ways of changing the car dominant culture on road, and provided support for the creation of BWCF, an advocacy organization for safe walking and cycling and a local chapter of the Florida Bicycle Association.

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