ORLANDO – Anyone who has ever driven down one of Orlando’s busy six-lane roadways like Semoran Boulevard or Orange Blossom Trail knows that cars often move at a highway rate of speed, except during rush hour when the congestion picks up.
What they’re not suited for is pedestrian traffic. This is particularly true on stretches of the city’s roads that don’t have ample lighting, Mighk Wilson pointed out.
”Many of our pedestrian fatalities are happening on unlit roads,” he said.
On Wednesday, Metroplan Orlando, the regional transportation planning agency, voted to approve a new Pedestrian Safety Plan designed to enhance the likelihood that Orlando residents who opt to walk or ride a bicycle rather than drive a car can get where they’re going – safely.
The proposal was unanimously approved during the board’s monthly meeting at the Metroplan office on E. Robinson Street in downtown Orlando.
Wilson, a bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for Metroplan Orlando who prepared the safety plan for the agency, said it had a number of key components designed to enhance the safety of pedestrians who choose to cross these busy roadways, even in the face of oncoming traffic.
“We’ve been working for quite a few months on this,” he said. “This is about getting pedestrians over high speed roads.”
The first aspect of the plan is an increased number of lights on several busy corridors, he said.
“Lighting is a really key issue for us,” he said.
It also requires a commitment by the city and county government before the state will help fund any new traffic lights, he added.
“The state cannot expend capital to put in lighting unless there’s a local agreement to cover the (long term) operation and maintenance,” Wilson said.
Another aspect is involving other agencies, including local law enforcement, to get out into the community – particularly neighborhoods where residents frequently attempt to walk from their homes to nearby shopping centers, and have to brave those busy roads to get across – to discuss how they can do it without potentially endangering their lives.
“We also have to address the behavior side,” he said. “As part of this, law enforcement will be going out and giving safety presentations.”
Another element of the plan is figuring out which busy roads attract the most pedestrian traffic, and then studying how best to help people get from one side of the road to the other, without being hit by a car, Wilson said.
“This is expected to be an ongoing effort, and not just this year, but over the next five years,” he said. “One of our goals is setting priorities for corridors where we see the greatest potential for improvement.”
It would also mean working in conjunction with the Florida Department of Transportation and the Lynx bus system, he said, on creative ways to help pedestrians living near busy roads.
“The idea with the road safety audit is to bring in multi-disciplinary audit teams led by independent coordinators assigned by the road owners,” he said, whether the owner is the city, county, state or federal government.
The plan was endorsed by several of Metroplan’s advisory committees, including the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee and the Citizens’ Advisory Committee.
Dan Stephens, the chairman of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, said he welcomes efforts to make it easier – and safer – for bicyclists to navigate city roads without the risk of being hit by an automobile.
“We need a strategy for implementing bike sharing situations in the city,” Stephens said.
Richard Foglesong, chairman of the Citizens’ Advisory Committee, also liked the plan, saying “Pedestrian safety is a top concern for our committee.”
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