Orlando rated most dangerous city for pedestrians, UCF students
Published: Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 11, 2012 10:10
Cars zoom past on Gemini Boulevard as students wait to cross the high-traffic lanes. Though the crosswalk signal hasn’t changed yet, the students look left and right and finally cross when they don’t see any cars coming. For many students, it’s not a problem to cross before the signals change.
But for others, such as Danielle Kase and Alexis Dugan, it’s better to wait.
Kase, a freshman political science major, said she feels rushed when she crosses the street at Gemini Boulevard near the gym.
Dugan, a freshman psychology major, said the light typically changes extremely quickly. Sometimes it changes before she even makes it to the other side.
“So then you’re like, ‘Do I want to run or do I want to wait?’” Dugan said.
Yvena Valmond, a senior psychology major, believes the intersection near the gym is the most dangerous intersection for pedestrians on campus.
“It’s a really small space and it has all the people going to the gym and then it has that street for the neighborhood. There’s a dorm right there and so a lot of people are coming through there and, I don’t know, it’s just really horrible,” Valmond said.
Cheyenne Jennings, a senior criminal justice major agrees.
“I’ve seen people almost get hit. I’ve almost got hit there a couple of times. I mean, I got the right of way but people were trying to turn anyways,” Jennings said.
In February 2011, a female pedestrian was struck by a Toyota Corolla near the Recreation and Wellness Center crosswalk. The woman sustained a bleeding head injury and was taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center’s trauma unit.
Despite the anxiety of feeling rushed, Kase believes that UCF is keeping pedestrians pretty safe.
Peter Stephens, UCF police community relations officer, said that it has always been a priority to keep pedestrians, bicyclists, skateboarders and others safe.
“The problem that we find is that students don’t use the crosswalks like they’re supposed to. They just want to dart out in the middle of intersections or they want to dart out into the middle of road traffic, which is extremely hazardous,” Stephens said.
Stephens said that the pedestrian safety speeches given at freshman orientation, foot-patrol officers and the traffic signal crosswalks are helpful in maintaining the safety of all students.
“We do the best we can providing signalized intersections, but pedestrians bear some of the responsibility as well,” Stephens said.
Currently, research is being done on what effect the countdown timers have on students who cross in the middle of traffic, Stephens said.
The city of Orlando is also taking some initiatives to keep pedestrians safe.
In 2011, Transportation for America rated Orlando and Kissimmee the most dangerous metropolitan areas for pedestrians. Overall, there were 557 pedestrian deaths from 2000 to 2009, according to its Dangerous by Design report.
Mighk Wilson, smart growth planner for Metroplan Orlando, said there is a complex set of reasons as to why there are so many deaths. The main issue, he said, is newer cities that have been built in the past 30 or 40 years have been built for the automobile.
“So, just inherently, you have a lot more high-speed traffic, relatively speaking, and actually fewer people walking too. So drivers are just not in the habit of paying attention to pedestrians since there are so few of them,” Wilson said.
According to MetroPlan Orlando’s Tracking the Trends 2011 report, there were 62 pedestrian and bicycle fatalities in 2006 and 64 in 2010.
To help combat this, MetroPlan Orlando has partnered in a campaign called Best Foot Forward, Wilson said. The campaign is mainly run by a local advocacy group called Bike/Walk Central Florida but it is also partnering with Winter Park Health Foundation.
According to the Best Foot Forward website, the campaign was launched in the fall of 2011. Its mission is to work with civic leaders, public safety officials, engineers, transportation officials and Central Florida community members to ensure the safety of all pedestrians, motorists and bicyclists.
Brad Kuhn, director of Bike/Walk Central Florida and project manager for Best Foot Forward, said the city of Orlando has been working hard to improve and maintain safety. With local governments and other organizations coming together along with grants, Kuhn is optimistic.
“If you get that all together and get everyone pulling in the same direction, we ought to be able to finally, once and for all, do what we’ve been talking about doing for 20 years, which is finally making our streets safe,” Kuhn said.