A recent report funded by the AARP and presented by the National Complete Streets Coalition named Tampa Bay the second most dangerous metropolitan area for pedestrians in the United States. 10 News is committed to creating a safer environment for our residents, so we are taking on pedestrian safety as an over-arching cause.
As the Road Warrior, it has become obvious to me that this is a very complex issue. Being a beach community, we do have more pedestrian traffic than a lot of the other places on the list, but inconsistent crosswalk procedures, driver, and pedestrian negligence and questionable street planning all seem to come into play.
Photojournalist Gene Yagle and I set up shop at the St. Pete Beach crosswalk at Blind Pass Rd. and 77th Ave., an area where multiple pedestrian-related incidents have been reported. The crosswalk there has the most up-to-date technology – LED lights that flash brighter than the standard, larger lights.
Related Link: FDOT decided against signal at fatal crossing in 2011
"As much attention as you can get when you are crossing a crosswalk, it's beneficial not only to the person crossing but also to the cars that are coming down the road," said Pinellas County Sheriff's Sergeant David Disano.
He also said that the PCSO has multiple pedestrian safety education classes in place, even for tourists. But, despite the PCSO's best efforts, most people cannot answer this basic question: is jaywalking actually illegal?
Sergeant Disano said, "Yes. It's illegal because it's dangerous."
While I was standing at the intersection of Blind Pass and 77th Avenue, I saw seven people cross the street. Two of those used the crosswalk and only one of them pushed the button to set the lights flashing. I was nearly hit by a driver while crossing with the lights flashing, and I observed a pedestrian receiving a jaywalking warning from a passing PCSO deputy.
The question then arises whether there really is ample education, and if there is, why is Tampa Bay still failing at protecting pedestrians? Brian Willis, president of effective transportation advocacy group "Connect Tampa Bay," said that the state has actually set aside big bucks for pedestrian safety education and that this area has a street planning problem.
"There are a lot of roads that go through neighborhoods where people are living. They have kids that are walking to school," he said. Brian went on to mention that other metropolitan areas make better use of speed designation, medians, overhead lighting, and crosswalks to better serve pedestrians.
With all this in mind, 10 News is taking on the pedestrian safety issue. We want to make this a safer place for all of us to walk, drive, and live. Visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/wtsp10news and post your ideas for solving Tampa Bay's pedestrian safety issues. We are forming a task force to evaluate ideas and present them to the Florida Department of Transportation which governs most of the roads impacted by pedestrian safety problems.
Together, we can do a better job of protecting ourselves while travelling on and alongside our Tampa Bay roadways.