How to Make Sarasota More Pedestrian Friendly

Jan 24, 2020 | Firm News

With Florida being one of the most dangerous states for pedestrians, these are a few ways which Sarasota could consider becoming more pedestrian friendly.

As we reported earlier this year, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) found that Florida was at the top of the list for most pedestrian deaths, and the North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton area claims the tenth spot on the Dangerous by Design’s “Pedestrian Danger Index.” With an average of roughly 4,500 fatalities a year, pedestrian deaths now account for 15% of all traffic related fatalities. Considering how much of an impact that has on our community, we looked at a few ways Sarasota might become safer for pedestrians.

Sweden has become one of the leaders in pedestrian safety after implementing its Vision Zero plan in 1997, which cut the number of traffic deaths in half. It is such an impressive feat that New York City is implementing its own version of Vision Zero, in the hopes of cutting traffic deaths to zero by 2024. These are a few things that have worked in other places and are heralded by several traffic safety professionals.

Lower speed limits

Based on two landmark studies in the United States and the United Kingdom, pedestrians are killed 5% of the time when they are struck by a car traveling 20 mph, 37-45% of the time when the car is traveling 30 mph, and 83-85% of the time when the car is traveling 40 mph. Sweden’s plan for reducing pedestrian/traffic accidents was largely based in limiting the speed limit to 20 mph in locations with the most possible conflicts between pedestrians and cars.

More vibrant crosswalks

Studies have shown that motorists are more likely to be aware of pedestrians when crosswalks are highly visible. Safety improves when these crosswalks are painted with stripes, in assorted colors, or lit.

Neckdowns and bulb-outs slow traffic

In many communities that provide a more pedestrian friendly environment, the sidewalks at intersections extend further into the street, creating what is often called a “neckdown” or a “bulb-out.” The curb extensions not only narrow the road, forcing motorists to slow down, but they also make pedestrians more visible and give them a shorter distance to cross the street.

Raised medians

According to 8-80 Cities, a non-profit organization focused on enhancing mobility and public spaces in order to create more vibrant, healthy, and equitable communities for anyone from 8 to 80, adding raised medians to busy streets as a refuge for crossing pedestrians has been shown to reduce traffic accidents by 56%.

Narrow lanes

Wide lanes send motorists the message that it is alright to speed up. Although many lanes on city streets are 12 or 14 feet wide, studies have shown that 10-foot-wide lanes are safer and more efficient for traffic flow.

Convert four-lane streets into multi-modal streets

Making streets safer for bicyclists also makes streets safer for pedestrians. Many cities are finding that a four-lane street with 12-foot lanes can be easily converted into a two-lane street with parallel parking, a turn lane, and bike paths, creating a better and safer flow of traffic. Some are also finding that it is often safer to create a cycle track with two directional lanes separated by parallel parking instead of two separate bike lanes that move with motorized traffic.

More roundabouts

While there are some who still complain about them, roundabouts have been proven to cut down on accidents. Even for those who still haven’t managed to understand how to navigate around one without stopping, roundabouts are safer for motorists and pedestrians alike.

Install speed cameras

While New York has installed 140 speed-tracking cameras in order to keep drivers at a safer speed, Sweden has more than 1,100.

Develop walking clubs

Essentially, many of the tactics to keep pedestrians safe are designed to slow motorists down. However, the best way to make pedestrians safe is for pedestrians to turn out en masse. The more drivers see pedestrians, the more likely they are to be aware of them. So get out and go for a walk.

The Complete Streets Implementation Plan developed by the Florida Department of Transportation is currently under external review, and is meant to make Florida’s streets safer for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists alike by implementing ideas like these. In the meantime, be aware of the pedestrians around you and drive accordingly.