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Nation's Most Dangerous City for Pedestrians Becoming Safer

A Smart Growth America report put the spotlight on Orlando and the entire state of Florida as leading the nation in pedestrian deaths per capita. NPR investigate what is being done to lose the infamous title.
June 16, 2014, 6am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Nataliya Hora

Authors of Smart Growth America's Dangerous by Design, 2014 study "blame the city's layout, design of its roads, and the culture of its drivers," states the NPR host in the introduction to Greg Allen's report. [Listen here.]

It's not the first time Florida claimed the infamous title. In fact, a similar report three years ago helped compel Billy Hattaway, "a bike and pedestrian safety zealot," to return from the private sector to take his current position as a district secretary with the Florida Department of Transportation.

"Because of the nature of land development patterns, we ended up with a lot of higher-speed, larger roads, because people are driving longer distances to get back and forth to work," Hattaway says. "The pressure to increase the size of roads is what contributed to the problem."

The state "has developed a long-range plan for improving pedestrian and bike safety" that addresses street redesign, adding roundabouts and other traffic calming measures to reduce speeds. It has also tackled the "culture" problem, which "may be more difficult than redesigning highways," states Allen. 

In Orlando, a coalition of groups that includes traffic planners, government, health care groups and the public schools is trying, with a campaign called "Best Foot Forward."

One partner agency carries a lot of influence with errant drivers is the Orlando Police Department, which has been conducting "sting operations, putting plainclothes officers at crosswalks and issuing tickets and warnings to violators."

The campaign has been successful, relatively speaking, reports Amanda Day, project director at Best Foot Forward. See Orlando's "Pedestrian Safety" brochure [PDF].

Day's group monitors a number of streets in the city, and on roads where the speed limit is 30 miles per hour or less, Day says, drivers are yielding more often. Previously, drivers stopped for pedestrians 12 percent of the time. Today, she says, half the drivers are yielding.

Orlando has company at the top of the "most dangerous cities" for pedestrians list with three other Florida cities: Tampa, Jacksonville, and Miami.

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Published on Wednesday, June 11, 2014 in NPR
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