Slightly safer: Cape Coral, Fort Myers inches closer to lessening pedestrian danger

Dangerous By Design study shows Cape Coral, Fort Myers makes slight improvements on…

Slightly safer: Cape Coral, Fort Myers inches closer to lessening pedestrian danger 1
Slightly safer: Cape Coral, Fort Myers inches closer to lessening pedestrian danger 2

Michael Braun

Kaitlin Greenockle
 
| Fort Myers News-Press

Southwest Florida may have gotten safer for pedestrians … but only incrementally and not enough to make safety proponents happy.

The Dangerous by Design 2021 report produced by the Smart Growth America and the National Complete Streets Coalition and released Tuesday shows the Cape Coral-Fort Myers area improving marginally. It dropped three spots to 11th from eighth among the top 100 United States Metropolitan statistical areas for pedestrian danger.

During a media briefing, Smart Growth America explained how instrumental road designs are to increase pedestrian safety.

More: Nationwide dangerous roads study again ranks Florida as deadliest state for pedestrians

More: Traffic fatalities in time of COVID-19: More than 100 died on Lee County roads in 2020

More: Guest opinion: Pedestrian safety is major concern for Lee County

Things as simple as more crosswalks, increased vegetation and tighter lanes all can help the safety of those crossing roadways on foot.

During the briefing two women shared their stories of how pedestrian deaths directly effected them.

Latanya Byrd, of Philadelphia, lost her niece and three nephews eight years ago while they were attempting to cross a 12-lane road. Two vehicles were racing down the boulevard leaving them dead.

Kailey Kiss, a University of Florida student, lost a sorority sister and witnessed another classmate be struck and killed by a vehicle when waiting to cross University Avenue, a state road that borders the Gainesville university.

Since then, Kiss founded Not One More, an organization dedicated to improving streets’ safety on college campuses.

The improvements to the avenue is a slow progress and there has been short-term changes, but it needs to be redesigned, Kiss said. 

Florida most dangerous

Florida remained the most dangerous state followed by Alabama, New Mexico Mississippi and Delaware. The state had 5,893 pedestrian fatalities from 2010 to 2019 for average annual pedestrian fatalities of 2.8 per 100,000.

“I … can only say we aren’t making enough progress, especially since we had 22 pedestrian and eight bicycle fatalities in 2020 here in Lee County,” said Dan Moser, a local bicycle safety advocate and founding member of BikeWalkLee, a Lee County safe roads advocacy organization. “Although our efforts to create Complete Streets via policy is beginning to improve our infrastructure we are still building roads/highways that induce speed. Until we get that under control Lee County will continue to have too high of a percentage of non-motorists among our total traffic crashes/injuries/fatalities.’

In the 2021 report, looking at Florida by itself, the Cape-Coral-Fort Myers area ranked as the eighth-most dangerous place for pedestrians, behind Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Lakeland-Winter Haven, and Jacksonville.

“As usual, Florida remains the most dangerous state for pedestrians, even though FDOT seems to be on a better track than in the past,” Moser said. “We still live in a place where cars (and obnoxious pickup trucks) are king. Also, as micro-mobility — especially ebikes — becomes more and more common we’ll really see how much our infrastructure is lacking. Governments from FDOT to the smallest municipality seem oblivious to this trend, a trend I believe will continue for the foreseeable future.     

Previous studies have been far less positive for Southwest Florida with the Cape Coral-Fort Myers metropolitan area ranked as the deadliest in the nation for pedestrians. That report covered the 2005-14 period.

“No matter how hard we try, we can’t get it right,” John “Jay” Anderson, of Fort Myers and the executive director of Stay Alive….Just Drive! Inc., said. “As long as we continue to build roads to accommodate motor vehicles and not all users the problem will persist.”

Overall in the United States, the report showed that the number of people struck and killed nationwide made a dramatic rise over the past decade, even as the number of people killed while riding in or driving a vehicle has barely grown.

At-risk populations

The risk isn’t evenly distributed: The report finds that certain groups of people are struck and killed at higher rates including Black people, older adults, people walking in low-income neighborhoods, and American Indian people.

From 2010-2019, Black people were struck and killed by drivers at an 84% higher rate per capita than non-Hispanic white people. More dangerous roads are near communities of color and implicit bias may play a role in the increased danger.

Research by the University of Nevada has shown that drivers are significantly more likely to yield to a white pedestrian in a crosswalk than to a Black pedestrian.

Connect with breaking news reporter Michael Braun: MichaelBraunNP (Facebook)@MichaelBraunNP (Twitter) or mbraun@news-press.com.


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