In previous posts, I’ve discussed the dangers facing
pedestrians on Tampa Bay area roads. The figures are now in for 2012. Unfortunately,
the picture remains grim.
There were 13 bicyclist deaths in Hillsborough County in 2012. That’s
up from 2011, when there were nine, and 2010, when there were 11. Pasco
County was also up, with five deaths. Pinellas tied its 2011 death number of 10.
Long-range data is even more depressing. A study by Transportation for
America, a coalition working for transportation reform, published a study
in 2011 ranking metropolitan areas for pedestrian safety. Rankings were
based on a 10-year period from 2000 to 2009. The Orlando area was worst,
and the Tampa area was second worst. Four of the five worst areas were
in Florida, with Jacksonville and Miami ranking third and fourth respectively.
There is even a racial and demographic component to the TFA figures. African
Americans and Hispanics walk more than other ethnic groups. Almost 20
percent of African American households don’t have cars; the same
is true for 14 percent of Hispanic households. African Americans walk
on trips 26 percent more than white people, and Hispanics walk about 45
Not surprisingly, members of those minorities suffer far greater rates
of per capita pedestrian injury and death. Hispanics suffered pedestrian
death rates nearly 62-percent higher than whites. African Americans were
even higher, at 73-percent above death rates for whites. The poor and
elderly, groups who also walk more than the general U.S. population, also
suffered substantially higher per-capita death rates.
Ironically, there seems to be an almost inverse relationship between pedestrian
accidents and the number of pedestrians. Boston, where five percent of
workers walk to work, was ranked the best metro area for pedestrians.
In Orlando, the worst area, only 1.2-percent of workers walked to work.
I’ve commented on this seemingly counterintuitive phenomenon in prior
posts. It seems that in places where there are many pedestrians, drivers
learn to watch for them. In places where there are few, they do not. Thus,
the data suggests that the solution for high rates of pedestrian injury
and death is actually more pedestrians.
At a time when there is a national epidemic of obesity and related health
problems (diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.), we need to encourage people
to be more active, not less. Our entire country has some work to do on
this, but Florida in particular has a long way to go.
Simply building more roads with more lanes and higher speed limits is not
the answer. In fact, it has brought us to the sorry state of affairs we
see now. Transportation funding should provide protected lanes for bikers
and walkers, marked crosswalks, and other sensible protections. Otherwise,
high injury and death rates are likely to continue. At the same time,
healthy behavior that would do most Americans a lot of good will be discouraged.