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Best Foot Forward Launch

Best Foot Forward, Community-wide Coalition Formed to Improve Pedestrian Safety in Metro Orlando BFF Supporters

Metro Orlando ranks number one in the nation for pedestrian deaths and injuries.  On average, a pedestrian is killed every week and two are injured every day.  Best Foot Forward, a community-wide pedestrian safety coalition, is forming to reverse this trend and make streets safer for walkers and drivers.  The public launch will take place on Wednesday, May 30, 2012 from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Orlando Health Heart Institute Building.

“We start today, before anyone else gets hurt,” said Linda Chapin, coalition chair, along with Winter Park attorney Hal Downing. “After all, whether we drive, bike, or ride the bus as our primary transportation, we’re all pedestrians at some point every day.  It’s time for us to put our best foot forward, and make it a habit to look out for each other as we walk and drive on our streets.”

Best Foot Forward for Pedestrian Safety is a coalition of civic leaders, public safety officials, engineers, educators, transportation planners, advocates and concerned citizens. Initiated by Bike/Walk Central Florida under the leadership of former Orange County Mayor Linda Chapin, spearheaded by Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, the coalition includes Orange County Government, Orlando Health, Lynx, Winter Park Health Foundation, MetroPlan Orlando, the City of Orlando, Winter Park, Maitland, Eatonville, Windermere, Winter Garden, and Apopka, as well as the police chiefs throughout Orange County led by Orlando Police Chief Paul Rooney and Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings.

“As a region we have partnered to expand our transportation options, now we must work collectively to educate the community about pedestrian safety and traffic laws to prevent these unnecessary pedestrian injuries and deaths,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. “We are known as the number one tourist destination, now we want to be known as the safest place in the country for pedestrians.”

Coalition partners will triangulate on the problem, using low-cost Engineering with community Education, and high-visibility Enforcement, to break old, bad habits and establish new safer ones. Short-term, success will be measured by the percentage of drivers exhibiting the desired behavior of yielding to pedestrians at crosswalks.

The ultimate measure of success, however, will be the reduction of pedestrian deaths and injuries. The group has established a goal of a 10 percent annual reduction in pedestrian deaths and injuries – initially within Orange County, but ultimately within the entire Orlando-Kissimmee MSA.

The community education campaign takes a three-pronged approach, targeting drivers, walkers and educators.

  • I Yield 4 Peds raises awareness of Florida’s law requiring drivers to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, and aims to increase the percentage of drivers obeying the law.
  • WalkWise aims to get more pedestrians to use crosswalks.
  • WalkSafe is a Sunshine State Standards compliant curriculum for grades K-5 developed by the University of Miami Miller School and used in Miami-Dade County Public Schools.

Orange County Public Schools is always concerned for student safety, especially between home and school. District leadership will be reviewing the WalkSafe program curriculum in the next few weeks for potential use in the classroom.

Metro Orlando experiences about 730 pedestrian injuries and 45 fatalities every year. From 2000 to 2009, there were 557 pedestrians killed while walking.  That’s a sad state of affairs, particularly when you consider that the main reason for these injuries and deaths is simple neglect.

“Orlando is a world class city and as such deserves to have pedestrian friendly roadways,” said Jerry Demings, Orange County Sheriff.  “It is time that we change the attitudes of many of our drivers to embracing our collective responsibilities of making our roadways safer for everyone.”

MetroPlan Orlando research finds the majority of the fatalities occur outside of crosswalks, after 4 p.m., and under clear to cloudy skies.  Contrary to popular belief, residents, not visitors, account for more than 90 percent of injuries, with males outpacing females.

The mission of Best Foot Forward is to prevent accidents and improve pedestrian safety, while encouraging walking as a safe, fun form of transportation and healthy activity. To learn more, go to www.iyield4peds.org.

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