City envisions safer roadways

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In 2017, 26 people were killed on our roadways, and 183 had incapacitating crashes within the City of Orlando, according to the city’s Department of Transportation. News reports have lamented that Orlando is one of the least safe cities in the U.S. for pedestrians and bicyclists. In response, Mayor Dyer and the City of Orlando have launched a comprehensive program called “Vision Zero” to try and eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2040. Meetings have been held in all of the city districts, and on Nov. 1, Commissioner Patty Sheehan’s District 4 — which encompasses most of downtown Orlando — met in Mayor Langford Park to explain the program and solicit feedback from residents.

Photo by S.T. Cardinal

About 13 city staff were on hand, and 18 leaders from all of the downtown neighborhoods attended and submitted ideas to City Transportation Director, Billy Hattaway, himself a resident of downtown. Orlando’s goals include:

  1. Adopt a safe systems approach in roadway design, operations and maintenance;
  2. Increase public understanding of the leading causes of crashes resulting in serious injury or fatalities;
  3. Support law enforcement efforts to eliminate behaviors leading to serious injury and fatal crashes;
  4. Demonstrate continuous progress toward Vision Zero;
  5. Improve access and travel time to Level 1 Trauma Center and other hospitals; and
  6. Prioritize investments and programs in communities including underserved populations and higher numbers of vulnerable road users.

Maps showing problem areas, along with flipcharts, were presented on the topics of education, enforcement, equity, engineering, and engagement. Residents indicated desired items such as crosswalks, four-way stops, bike lanes, eliminating one-way traffic, burying power lines so more trees can be planted, bus stops, traffic calming devices, etc. Mills Avenue, Colonial Drive and Orange Avenue in Sodo have the worst accident rates in District 4. According to Hattaway, rear ending is the most common accident, 94 percent of which is caused by human behavior including tailgating, driving too fast, or distracted driving.

Nationwide, the collaborative campaign addresses the crisis of 40,000 traffic deaths and millions of injuries a year. New York City implemented the Vision Zero program in 2014, and has seen a 45 percent reduction in pedestrian fatalities. San Francisco also implemented Vision Zero in 2014, and had only 20 traffic deaths in 2017, their lowest number in recorded history. They determined that 70 percent of all severe and fatal traffic injuries occurred on just 12 percent of their streets. They also discovered that over half of the fatalities were due to only two factors:  a failure to yield at a crosswalk, and unsafe speeds.

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