Mitch Perry Report 5.22.14: Why can't Tampa Bay improve pedestrian safety?

Earlier this week the Tampa-St. Petersburg area received the dubious recognition of being named the second most dangerous region in the nation when it comes to pedestrian safety, which should come as a surprise to absolutely no one.

In fact, Florida dominated the top ten, as delineated in a new report by the National Streets Coalition. Orlando was number one, followed by Tampa/St. Pete, Jacksonville and the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale area.

The biggest question, obviously, is — why?

Cities like New York and San Francisco have set decisive “Vision Zero” targets to dramatically reduce bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities in their communities. It's time for leaders in the Tampa Bay area to step up and do the same.

"They are sobering numbers," Tampa City Councilwoman Lisa Montelione said last night, addressing the cyclists gathered in Curtis Hixon Park for the region's fourth annual Ride of Silence  (The ride honored the 13 cyclists who died on Hillsborough County roads over the past year.) "If we want to be a city and a county that attracts world-class companies and promotes economic development, we've got to stop killing people on our roadways," she said.

The Streets Coalition report devotes a full page to Florida transportation officials' response to its 2011 report, which also listed four Florida regions as being the most dangerous in the country. Following that report, Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad created the Bicycle/Pedestrian Focused Initiative. He also appointed his department’s District One secretary, Billy Hattaway, to lead the initiative and champion pedestrian and bicycle safety. Since then, the Florida Department of Transportation(FDOT) has added two full pedestrian and bicycle safety specialists to each of its seven district offices.

Older adults face more risks as pedestrians because they may be less able to react quickly to an oncoming vehicle. People of color were also disproportionately represented among pedestrian fatalities.

"We only have 6 percent of the population of the United States," Montelione said last night. "But we're number two in pedestrian bicycle deaths."

In other news… President Obama is getting hammered across the political divide for his handling of the crisis in the Veterans Affairs Department. One of those doing the skewering was Pinellas County's David Jolly, who said the situation is one of the low points of Obama's tenure.

Over 100 people were arrested in a protest near McDonald's national headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois yesterday. Today is the fast-food giant's annual shareholders meeting, and fast-food workers want the corporation to give them a raise. Among those detained was one Tampa man, whom CL spoke with before his arrest.

And Rick Scott comes to the Port of Tampa today to shower more largess, this time on the Port. The governor, who will be joined by New Jersey's Chris Christie, announced through a campaign spokesperson yesterday that he will not be debating Charlie Crist in mid-July, as the Crist camp and the Associated Press was hoping would be the case. 

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