Pedestrian accidents in Gainesville occur throughout the city, although prevention efforts have been largely limited to the area around UF
Of Florida’s 36 cities with a population of 75,000 or more, Gainesville ranked ninth in a Florida Department of Transportation study that measured which cities had the most pedestrian-related serious injuries and fatalities between 2016 and 2020.
In April 2021, in an effort to limit these incidents, the City of Gainesville adopted its Vision Zero Action Strategy, a plan that the Gainesville Vision Zero Framework says aims to eliminate traffic fatalities while increasing mobility. safe and fair for neighbors by 2040. .
Currently, despite its mission to reach all Gainesville residents and a need in other parts of the community, the city’s initiative only targets streets adjacent to the University of Florida campus and parts of downtown. -city.
City Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos said the target area was chosen because University Avenue and 13th Street had more concentrated crashes than other roads in the city.
“We try to focus on areas where we have very high pedestrian and bicycle use and where there is the highest risk of incidents,” Santos said. “Unfortunately, we have limited resources and need to prioritize where we put the funds.”
The funds are vital to Vision Zero because the policy emphasizes redesigning or re-engineering the roads it targets. Last year, commissioners projected a cost of more than $2.3 million for road alterations in the target area, excluding projects on University Avenue and Thirteenth Street, which were already underway. .
According to supporters of this initiative, the roads must be redesigned into “complete streets”, which force drivers to reduce their speed. The recent redesign of South Main Street near Depot Park is an example of this transition.
According to Linda Dixon, director of planning at UF, complete streets are designed with the most vulnerable users in mind. Dixon explained that this design concept not only takes into account the movement of vehicles, but gives priority to pedestrians.
“Complete Streets have very ambitious recommendations. And by that I also mean they will be very expensive,” Dixon said. “All of our leaders are looking for strategies to find funds to implement what’s coming out of the complete streets initiative.”
Although expensive, Santos thinks the investment is necessary.
“Just lowering the speed limit on a road designed for people driving 70 miles per hour won’t make people drive slower,” Santos said. “People don’t drive slowly because of the speed limit. They drive slowly because the road is designed that way.
In January of this year, the commission allocated $3 million to Vision Zero for fiscal years 2022 and 2023. Then, in February, the commission allocated an additional $1.25 million in COVID relief funds for repairs and improvements.
Dixon said University Avenue and 13th Street itself has received more than $11 million for pedestrian safety projects from the university, FDOT and the city of Gainesville. Most of that money came from UF and FDOT, which each invested about $5 million.
Chris Furlow, president of Gainesville Citizens for Active Transportation, a local nonprofit that supports alternative modes of transportation, says he would like the city’s efforts to go beyond the Vision Zero target area and to through the city.
“Other roads are just as dangerous or more dangerous,” Furlow said. “Waldo Road has had more deaths over the years than University (Avenue), for example.”
Data obtained for this report through a Gainesville Police Department public record request shows that between January 1, 2021 and March 21, 2022, GPD officers filed 156 incident reports involving pedestrians struck by a car within the city limits.
An analysis of reports shows that only 30 of these incidents occurred in the city-designated Vision Zero target area.
“You have these kind of clusters of activity throughout the community,” Dixon said. “You’ll often see a concentration of pedestrian crashes in low-income neighborhoods because, again, maybe those people are walking and cycling more.”
Time is another barrier to implementing Vision Zero, as street reconstruction would take a long time, as do most transportation projects that alter roads. According to Dixon, an FDOT project to install two traffic lights on University Avenue this summer, for example, has been underway for more than five years.
Furlow thinks officials should view law enforcement as a temporary but effective solution to limiting pedestrian accidents until Vision Zero begins to have a broader impact. He said the two things that impact speeding and reckless driving are road re-engineering and strict enforcement by police.
The Vision Zero initiative involves working with the Gainesville Police Department. However, records from the Alachua Courts Clerk show a notable drop in the number of traffic violations issued by police throughout the county since the year 2000.
Furlow believes this drop in enforcement has led to more reckless driving on Gainesville roads.
Gainesville police were unable to provide records prior to the publication deadline for this story indicating whether or not there has been a drop in the number of tickets they have issued. The ministry’s public information office declined to comment without having access to the data.
Furlow thinks a solution to the city’s traffic problems will likely require a comprehensive approach involving both engineering and enforcement.
“Until there are any fatalities, there will never be enough security,” Furlow said. “You can always improve it.”