Bike/Walk Central Florida Continues Work to Inspire Safer Communities

SONY DSCSmart Growth America’s recently released report, “Dangerous by Design 2014,” for the second time named Metro Orlando the most dangerous place in the country to take a walk. Close behind on the list were three other Florida regions: Tampa-St. Petersburg, Jacksonville and Miami-Fort Lauderdale.

In spite of the news, leaders of Bike/Walk Central Florida (BWCF) say they are working harder than ever to get Orlando off the list, and they are making progress.

“Florida and Central Florida have a long way to go to improve the safety for all road uses, but at least we’re pushing the safety needle forward,” said Amanda Day, BWCF project director.

BWCF was created, and continues to be supported, with grant funding from the Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF) to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety through the use of engineering, education, and enforcement. Lisa Portelli, WPHF Program Director, is on its board of directors.

In 2012, Smart Growth’s first report naming Metro Orlando as the most dangerous place in the country for pedestrians inspired key transportation partners—including MetroPlan Orlando, the Florida Department of Transportation—as well as community leaders and local law enforcement officials to join with BWCF to launch Best Foot Forward (BFF).

BFF is an education and enforcement program designed to improve pedestrian safety by getting drivers to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks and getting pedestrians to be more careful crossing the street.

Its goal was to get drivers to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks and reduce injuries and deaths by 50 percent within five years in Orange County and Orlando.

As a result of its campaign to educate drivers and walkers on Florida law, the installation of additional signs reminding drivers to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, and increased enforcement of traffic laws, BWCF officials say drivers now yield 48 percent of the time to pedestrians in crosswalks on roads with speed limits of 35 mph or less, said Ms. Portelli.

Pedestrian deaths in Orange County dropped from 38 in 2012 to 36 last year in Orange County, according to a release from BFF.

The statistics show there is progress, but officials note there is more work to be done.

“What is unique about Best Foot Forward, is the fact we are the only coalition in the state – if not nation – where local elected officials, enforcement agencies, city and county governments, public agencies, schools, hospitals, non-profits and businesses pool together their resources and work in concert to improve safety for all walkers. It’s truly a grassroots movement and with SunRail, bike share and expanded LYMMO services in the downtown corridor, there is urgency to make streets walkable and remind drivers, walkers and bikers to look out for each other,” said Ms. Day.

Click here to learn more about BFF.

The BWCF website can be found here.