To anyone who's recently been near a South Florida roadway, it seems preposterous to hope that drivers in this region can change their dangerous ways and adapt to walkers, runners, and bikers. Deadly driving is practically a tradition here and in other parts of the state, as evidenced by a study we mentioned earlier this month, which found Florida's four major cities to be the nation's four most dangerous to pedestrians.
As recently as Wednesday, a 15-year-old sophomore at Coral Glades High School was struck and killed while crossing Sample Road.
But this Time magazine article, which also laments Florida's ugly record of traffic fatalities, contains a faint ray of hope.
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It blames the state's abysmal record on "one of the most inadequate public transit systems in the U.S., as well as a dearth of sidewalks and bike paths.
"As Florida's growth burst at the seams, there just wasn't planning for sidewalks or anything else pedestrian-friendly," says Glenn Victor, spokesman for the nonprofit Florida Safety Council in Orlando. "This study should be considered very closely as part of the argument for endorsing projects like light rail. It's an impetus for Florida to catch up."
David Goldberg, spokesman for the nonprofit agency that conducted the study, said that as drivers in metropolitan areas have encountered more alternative means of transit, they've become more mindful of sharing the road. Los Angeles, which had an even more entrenched car culture, is one example.
"In L.A.," says Goldberg, "they've started to recognize that biking, walking, and public transit are a big part of their future. It's a good sign that the pendulum is swinging back." One way states and local governments can bring that about, he adds, is by adopting so-called complete-streets policies that build new thoroughfares or revamp existing ones with more than just car usage in mind.