South Florida region found 6th most dangerous for pedestrian traffic
By Frank Norton
A national study released today (11/21) ranks Miami-Fort Lauderdale the sixth most pedestrian-dangerous metropolitan region in the nation but still safer than some Florida counterparts.
The Washington-based Surface Transportation Policy Project, which performed the study, found five of the six most dangerous metropolitan areas in the nation are in Florida, with the top three peril zones being Orlando, Tampa-St. Petersburg and West Palm Beach, respectively.
"That's due in part to our relatively new cities being spread out over longer distances at higher traffic speeds," said Clark Turner, a transportation planner for the City of Miami. "It's just harder for people to move across roads without getting whacked."
The study's pedestrian danger index, based on a weighted set of criteria, shows the most risky places to walk are younger, lower-density metropolitan areas with relatively wide, high-speed streets and fewer sidewalks and crosswalks. All top-10 danger areas in the country were relatively newer southern regions.
In South Florida, one-way streets, elderly populations and tourists contribute to the dangers, experts said.
"In Miami, we've proposed converting the one-way street system to two-way in the downtown and we're looking at making other conversions city-wide," Mr. Turner said. "The higher speeds on one-way streets are what make them more dangerous."
According to the surface transportation project, Miami-Fort Lauderdale also ranks near the top in the average number of pedestrian deaths per 100,000 residents at 2.5 annually, compared to 1.3 in Boston, 0.9 in Minneapolis-St. Paul and 3.3 in Orlando. Ironically, it shows cities with the highest danger ratings actually had smaller percentages of people walking to work.
The Surface Transportation Policy Project is a non-profit group that works toward developing transportation and related investments that can help conserve energy, protect environmental and aesthetic quality, strengthen the economy, promote social equity and make communities more livable.
While relatively few pedestrians should translate into less exposure, it could also imply that would-be walkers are deterred by hazardous road conditions, said David Henderson, a planner with Miami-Dade County's Metropolitan Planning Organization, which oversees transportation issues. He is currently working on a pedestrian safety initiative that involves education and design planning.
He said a map of high-intensity crash areas points out Little Havana, Liberty City and South Beach as high danger neighborhoods.
As for roads, US 1 in Miami-Dade and Broward counties is among the 10 most fatal roads in the US with about 12 annually, according to the report.
"The deadliest roads tend to be high-speed arterials serving sprawling areas... with few sidewalks or crosswalks and lined with strip malls and big box stores set far back from the street."
"It's the multiple lanes of high-speed traffic and the lack of pedestrian amenities like sidewalks that put people at a higher risk of getting hit in an accident," said Vivian Young of 1,000 Friends of Florida, a Tallahassee non-profit that advocates infill development and managed growth.
"People are also walking less and less to work," she said, "and there is a correlation between designing pedestrian friendly communities and the obesity problem."