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Smart Growth America releases Dangerous by Design 2019

Smart Growth America (SGA) released Dangerous by Design 2019, the fifth edition of a ranking of the most dangerous U.S. metro areas for pedestrians. The report emphasizes the continuing epidemic of drivers striking and killing people walking on our streets. The Orlando – Kissimmee – Sanford Metro Area ranked as the most dangerous region for pedestrians in the nation, with eight of the top ten most deadly regions located in Florida.

The top ten metropolitan statistical areas on the pedestrian danger index are:

  1. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL
  2. Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL
  3. Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL
  4. North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL
  5. Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL
  6. Jacksonville, FL
  7. Bakersfield, CA
  8. Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL
  9. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL

Some grim facts

According to the report, “Between 2008 and 2017, drivers struck and killed 49,340 people who were walking on streets all across the United States. That’s more than 13 people per day, or one person every hour and 46 minutes. It’s the equivalent of a jumbo jet full of people crashing – with no survivors – every single month.”

The 2019 report ranks the 100 largest U.S. metro areas and every state by a “Pedestrian Danger Index (PDI).” PDI is a calculation of the share of local commuters who walk to work and the most recent data on pedestrian deaths.

  • The weighted national PDI average is 55.3.
  • Metro Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford’s current PDI score is 3 up from 234.7 in 2016.


In 2017, the most recent year for which data are available:

  • 5,977 people were struck and killed by drivers in the U.S. That’s an average of 16 pedestrian fatalities per day.
  • Between 2005 and 2014, Americans were 7.2 times more likely to die while traveling on foot than from a natural disaster. But, unlike natural disasters, pedestrian-vehicular collisions can be prevented.
  • In Florida, 670 people were struck and killed by drivers.
  • In the Orlando metro statistical area, 87 people were struck and killed by drivers.


The 2019 report found that while traffic deaths among motor vehicle occupants decreased by 6.1% from 2008 to 2017, the number of pedestrian deaths increased by 35.4% in that same time period.


What’s going wrong?

The report blames “federal policies, standards and funding mechanisms that have been in place for decades that produce dangerous roads that prioritize high speeds for cars over safety for all people.” Additionally, the report claims that “more people are driving cars that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has determined to be notoriously dangerous for people walking.”

Critics of the Dangerous by Design report point out that its “Pedestrian Danger Index” only takes people who walk to work into account, excluding transit riders (who are pedestrians), recreational walkers and the more than 70 million tourists who visit Central Florida annually and also walk to get around. While the methodology may not take everything into account, there’s no point in denying that there is a serious problem here.


How are BFF partners working together to address the crisis?

Local government transportation planners, engineers, law enforcement, medical staff, school staff, crossing guards and nonprofits are actively working together through the Best Foot Forward for pedestrian safety (BFF) coalition, which coordinates Central Florida’s pedestrian safety efforts with a Triple E approach – Education, Engineering, and Enforcement.

Our region is making major investments in walking and biking projects. In the next five years, Central Florida will invest $595 million in the region’s pedestrian, bicycle and transit network with projects aimed at addressing safety and public health.

MetroPlan Orlando has been putting its best foot forward by leading the region’s charge in Complete Streets efforts. In December 2016, MetroPlan Orlando drafted a regional Complete Streets policy and has been testing it on several corridors in the region. After those pilot projects are complete, the policy will be tweaked from the lessons learned, strengthening the final result.

Among other great things, the MetroPlan Orlando team is constantly looking at the big picture, analyzing pedestrian crash data to identify trends. In 2012, the organization released a Pedestrian Safety Action Plan with a list of priorities for funding transportation solutions to reduce pedestrian crashes, and a comprehensive set of engineering, enforcement and education strategies for local governments to implement.

Of the 16 corridors in the plan, nine have had safety studies completed or safety improvements made. MetroPlan Orlando has also conducted an analysis of high crash ZIP codes by pedestrian residence to see what trends would emerge. Results showed that many of the top 10 ZIP codes were in underserved communities. MetroPlan Orlando worked with Best Foot Forward to target educational programs and presentations to these communities.



Through the Orlando Walks Sidewalk program, the City of Orlando has been able to add 25 miles of sidewalks throughout the city with an additional 22 miles in the works. That’s over 150 sidewalk connections made that will help get people walking to schools, parks, busses, shopping and SunRail stations. The much-anticipated Colonial Overpass Bridge will provide a welcome connection of Gertrude’s Walk to the Orlando Urban Trail.

Significant pedestrian safety and enhancement projects in the City of Orlando:

  • Pedestrian Crossing Enhancement Program: Two rectangular reflective flashing beacon pedestrian crossings were installed on Lake Underhill Road, providing access between residential neighborhoods and Lake Underhill Park. The new pedestrian crossing experienced a driver yield rate of 45% to pedestrians crossing, which significantly improved pedestrian safety.
  • Complete Streets Policy: In 2016 the City of Orlando adopted 20 Complete Streets policy elements into the comprehensive plan for all future road projects. These elements specifically address all areas of transportation corridors to enable safe access for all users including pedestrians and bicyclists. These elements have recently been used in projects including the reconstruction of Bumby Avenue and the resurfacing of Westmoreland Road.
  • Orlando Main Street Bicycle and Pedestrian Study: In 2017 the City of Orlando will be conducting a bicycle and pedestrian study for the Milk and Mills50 Main Street districts. This study will analyze pedestrian safety and recommend enhancement projects in an area with burgeoning commercial and employment areas.



Significant pedestrian safety and enhancement projects and programs in Orange County:

  • INVEST in our Home for Life: This program provides $15 million over five years for pedestrian safety projects at intersections and other selected locations that will enhance various features such as sidewalks, crosswalks, signals, turn lanes, updated signage and other necessary improvements.
  • Pedestrian Safety Corridor Projects: Design is about to get underway to improve pedestrian safety in three high pedestrian crash areas: 1) UCF Area – Alafaya Trail and University Boulevard; 2) Oak Ridge Road; and 3) Pine Hills Road. These projects are the result of studies that identified needs and recommended infrastructure enhancements to improve pedestrian access and safety.
  • Pedestrian Safety Studies: Orange County recently completed the Universal Boulevard Pedestrian Safety Action Plan, which calls for installation of signals that will provide protected pedestrian crossings, installation of sidewalk, and narrowed travel lanes. Eight pedestrian crossing studies were conducted in the last two years for key corridors, including Rock Springs Road and Apopka Vineland Road, with recommendations for pedestrian refuge islands, sidewalk, speed feedback signs, and ADA upgrades currently underway.
  • Safety Programs: Roadway Lighting – $9 million this year, Sidewalks – $2 million annually, ADA retrofits – $2 million annually, $500,000 specifically allocated to pedestrian counts, pedestrian safety studies, and pedestrian safety education/messaging annually, neighborhood traffic calming – $300,000 annually, speed radar sign program – $250,000 annually.
  • Policies and Plans: Orange County recently completed Phase 1 of its Pedestrian/Bicycle Safety Action Plan, as well as the Orange County Pedestrian Crossing Treatment Guidelines for consistent countywide application. The development of a Complete Streets Policy and Pedestrian Safety Code updates are underway. Roadways scheduled for resurfacing are systematically reviewed for multi-modal improvements, such as the resurfacing review of Rio Grande Avenue, which resulted in recommendations for two new mid-block crosswalks, with installation in progress.
  • Walk-Ride-Thrive! Pedestrian Safety Program: Orange County staff completed 18 pedestrian safety education events in 2018 in partnership with schools and community groups, created “Eyes Up, Ears Open” messaging to address distracted walking, and wrapped signal cabinets with pedestrian safety messages at high-crash intersections. Pedestrian safety messaging was installed on LYNX busses, at high-use bus shelters, and on an I-Ride Trolley.



Best Foot Forward is currently active in Orange and Osceola counties and will be launching in Seminole County in late 2019. These are the results from the program since June 2012.

Evaluation: Measuring Progress by Tracking the Driver Yield Rate at Marked Crosswalk

In Orange County –

  • On roads with speeds 35 mph or lower, only 17% of drivers yielded to people in crosswalks. In 2018, that number was closer to 58%.
  • Only 2% of drivers in Orange County were yielding to people in crosswalks on roads with speeds over 40 mph in 2012 – now, that number hovers around 43%.

In Osceola County –

  • When BFF launched in 2017, 42% of drivers on roads 35 mph and lower were yielding to pedestrians. In 2018, that number increased to 43%.
  • On roads 40 mph and higher, 34% of drivers were yielding to people in crosswalks in 2017. One year later, the average is 40%.



23 high-visibility crosswalk enforcement actions called Operation Best Foot Forward have been conducted throughout Orange and Osceola with the Orlando Police Department, Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Kissimmee Police Department, Osceola County Sheriff’s Office and St. Cloud Police Department. Citations for not yielding to people walking in marked crosswalks start at $164 and drivers receive three points on their license. The next Operation Best Foot Forward will take place in June 2019.

Click here to view recent enforcement coverage.


Education: Community Outreach

An important facet of Best Foot Forward is community outreach. It’s only through education that the community can learn about pedestrian laws and how individuals can contribute to improving pedestrian safety. The program has reached many with its safety message. Additionally, Best Foot Forward reaches a wider Central Florida audience by working with local media during Operation Best Foot Forward enforcement details and on occasions when pedestrian-related stories are being covered.




Media Coverage since June 2012

$5,962,092 Earned Media Value

131,911,213 Traditional Media Reach



In September 2014, the Florida Department of Transportation enacted a statewide Complete Streets policy. Since then, FDOT has been working on integrating this approach into its internal manuals, guidelines and documents that govern all phases of transportation project development. More info on the FDOT website.

In FDOT District 5 covering nine counties in Central Florida, 115 miles of new lighting have either recently been completed or are currently under construction, with another 33 miles under design. The district has also begun an initiative to upgrade lighting at intersections across the area. More than 253 miles of state roads are being evaluated for intersection lighting additions or upgrades.


Orlando and Pedestrians: Top 5 Misconceptions

Who are these pedestrians anyway? Let’s address common misconceptions about people who walk:


#1. Fewer people walking mean fewer pedestrian deaths.

False. With most people in Orlando traveling by car, you might conclude that fewer people are walking and, therefore, there would be fewer pedestrian fatalities. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. When pedestrians are not a common sight, drivers don’t watch out for them — and, tragically, aren’t mindful of people on foot when approaching crosswalks or turning into cross streets.


#2. Tourists are leading cause of pedestrian-vehicular deaths

False. Locals walking alongside or crossing streets in Orlando are the most likely victims of fatal collisions with vehicles   According to MetroPlan Orlando, 83% of the pedestrians who were struck and killed by drivers lived in Orange, Seminole or Osceola counties; less than 5% were from other states.  The view of tourists behind the wheel being a threat to pedestrians is unsubstantiated, too. More than 70% of the drivers who struck a person walking were locals while 3% were from other states and less than 0.7% were from foreign countries.


#3: Pedestrians are usually older people.

False. Young people can be found footing it too, perhaps because they can’t afford a car, or—shocker—they just like walking. According to a study by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group at Rutgers University, millennials are discovering a preference for public transit, biking or walking instead of driving. It is true, however, that nationwide, victims of car/ped fatalities are disproportionately people over 50, possibly because their reflexes may be slower and they are less likely to recover from serious injury than younger people.


#4: Jaywalking is illegal in Florida.

False. Jaywalking is not a legal term and does not appear in Florida laws. Florida Statute 316.130 (10-12) states that pedestrians can cross a street where there is no crosswalk but they must yield to vehicles on the road. In other words, a walker can cross a street almost anywhere on it, but vehicles have the right-of-way if there is no crosswalk.

A couple other rules:

  • If pedestrians are between two intersections with working traffic signals, they must walk to one of the two intersections and cross at the crosswalks.
  • Pedestrians must cross the street in a straight line, not diagonally.


#5: Pedestrians are them, not me.

False. Say you drive into downtown for a concert at Amway Center and park in a garage only a block from the venue. You’re a pedestrian from the moment you leave the driver’s seat. Or maybe you’re going to Target, park your car and walk into the store. You’re a pedestrian.

It doesn’t matter whether you walk from home to work, or only as far as your mailbox. Every step of the way you’re a pedestrian, and you deserve to feel as safe on foot as you do on four wheels. 

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