Best Foot Forward Hopes to Make Central Florida Safer for Walkers

Step by step, street by street, backers of the Best Foot Forward (BFF) pedestrian safety campaign are determined to make Central Florida a safer place for walkers.

BFF is entering its second year with support of a community-wide coalition ranging from the Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF) and MetroPlan Orlando to the Orlando Police Department, Orange County Government and the cities of Winter Park and Maitland and the town of Eatonville.

The broadening campaign is the brainchild of Bike/Walk Central Florida–led by former Orange County Mayor Linda Chapin–in response to alarming statistics that ranked Metro Orlando as the most dangerous community in the country for pedestrians. It statistically earned that title from Transportation for America for the past decade. In Orlando, according to the statistics, one pedestrian is killed every week and two are injured every day.

Working with seed money from WPHF and MetroPlan Orlando and other community partners, Bike/Walk Central Florida decided on a Triple E approach—successfully used in other communities—to alter the statistics. The “E’s” include combining low-cost Engineering with community Education and high-visibility Enforcement.

Using this approach, the group hopes to increase drivers’ yielding behavior to over 70% and reduce injuries and deaths by 50% over five years.

Some 150 community leaders gathered in May 2012 to launch BFF. Law officers in some communities then began issuing warnings to drivers who failed to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks as required by law. The warning phase was followed by ticketing. In this phase, plain clothes officers crossed the street in marked crosswalks in locations that are heavily used by pedestrians. Drivers who failed to yield to pedestrians faced a $164 fine and three points on their driver’s license.

During the first year of operation, more than 3,200 warnings and 1,349 citations were issued to drivers failing to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk. In addition, the percentage of drivers yielding to pedestrians increased from a baseline of 12 percent to 43 percent on streets posted 35 mph or less and from 1.2 percent to five percent on roads posted for speeds of 40 mph or higher.

In addition, engineering improvements are underway in crosswalks and educational flyers, bumper stickers with the iYield4 Peds messages are circulating throughout the community and being shared by the media.

In the belief that it’s also important to also teach children how to be safe pedestrians, the Orange County School Board adopted the WalkSafe pedestrian safety curriculum for kindergarten through fifth grades and its being made available to all elementary schools in Orange County.

Bike Walk/Central Florida, formerly a chapter for the Florida Bicycle Association, is in the process of becoming a separate 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and Lisa Portelli, WPHF Program Director, Community Health, has been asked to sit on the board.

For more information about Bike Walk/Central Florida and the BFF initiative, click here.