In government, there can be a tendency to smother progress and momentum by unnecessarily commissioning studies and hiring consultants to tell us what decades of research and our own expertise have already told us. Whether we’re parents who know something about kids’ cognitive capacity and the dangers they face in the world or are transportation professionals who see, interpret, and mitigate hazards in the transportation realm every day, we not only know the problem with Florida’s Hazardous Walking Conditions statute, we know the solutions to them, or at least we know where to find them.
The good thing about resolving a problem like the one posed by the inadequacies of Florida’s Hazardous Walking Conditions statute is that there is an abundance of relevant expert material available for us to evaluate and consider. In fact, there is an extraordinary amount of information and research already at our fingertips.
The legislation that we’re proposing has made thorough use of those resources as well as our own knowledge and experience to arrive at a sound solution. There’s no need to play around with this. We all know what needs to be done.
Our proposal changes the current “reasonable walking distance” from 2 miles to 1.25 miles.
- “Most Safe Routes to School practitioners agree that a half mile is as far as most kindergarteners will walk happily, a mile is a reasonable length for older elementary school kids, and that 1.5 miles is an acceptable distance for high schoolers.” Safe Routes Partnership
- Perception of “close enough” home-to-school distance: .75 miles urban low-income context, 1.05 miles urban mid-income context, 1.25 miles inner-city low-income, 1.52 miles suburban high-income. “Thresholds and Impacts of Walkable Distance for Active School Transportation in Different Contexts” Design Research for Active Living
- “We recommend that for students grades Primary to Six, the maximum walking distance be 1.6 kilometers (.99 miles) and for secondary students grades Seven to Twelve, 3.0 kilometers (1.86 miles).” “Walking Distance Review” Nova Scotia Department of Education
Our proposal changes the width of a suitable unpaved surface from 4 feet to 5 feet adjacent to and separate from the edge of the road and any paved road shoulder.
- “The minimum width of a sidewalk shall be 5 feet on both curb and gutter and flush shoulder roadways. The minimum separation for a 5-foot sidewalk from the back of the curb is 2 feet. If the sidewalk is located adjacent to the curb, the minimum width of sidewalk is 6 feet. For sidewalks not adjacent to the curb, at least a 1-foot wide graded area should be provided on both sides, flush with the sidewalk and having a maximum 1:6 slope.” Chapter 8, paragraph B.1, 2016 Florida Department of Transportation Greenbook
- “Highway shoulders are not intended for frequent use by pedestrians, but do accommodate occasional pedestrian traffic.” Chapter 8, paragraph B.4, 2016 Florida Department of Transportation Greenbook
- The development of independent systems for pedestrian and motor vehicular traffic is the preferred method for providing adequate horizontal separation. Chapter 8, paragraph C.2, 2016 Florida Department of Transportation Greenbook
- “New sidewalks should be placed as far from the roadway as practical…4. Five feet from the shoulder point on flush shoulder roadways.” Chapter 8, paragraph C.2.a, 2016 Florida Department of Transportation Greenbook
- A minimum 2 foot wide graded area with a maximum 1:6 slope should be maintained adjacent to both sides of the (shared use) path; however, 3 feet or more is desirable to provide clearance from trees, poles, walls, fences, guardrails or other lateral obstructions. Where the path is adjacent to canals, ditches, or slopes steeper than 1:3, a wider separation should be considered. A minimum 5 foot separation from the edge of the path pavement to the top of the slope is desirable.” Chapter 9, paragraph C.1, 2016 Florida Department of Transportation Greenbook
Our proposal specifically states that any portion of drainage ditches, sluiceways, swales, channels, or other stormwater runoff facilities or systems are not suitable walkways and that railroad crossings, bridges, and overpasses that lack paved walkways designed for pedestrians are also not suitable walkways.
- The current Florida Hazardous Walking Conditions statute stipulates that “drainage ditches, sluiceways, swales, or channels” are not suitable walking surfaces for students. Section 1006.23, Florida Statutes
- Where the path is adjacent to canals, ditches, or slopes steeper than 1:3, a wider separation should be considered. A minimum 5 foot separation from the edge of the path pavement to the top of the slope is desirable.” Chapter 9, paragraph C.1, 2016 Florida Department of Transportation Greenbook
- “If sidewalks are constructed on the approaches to bridges, they should be continued across the structure.” Chapter 8, paragraph B.1, Florida Department of Transportation Greenbook
- “Roadways, sidewalks and shared use paths at grade may cross light rail, surface commuter rail, conventional passenger rail, and freight railroads. Special design considerations are needed for these pedestrian intersections so that pedestrians are warned of the crossing and potential presence of a train.” Chapter 8, paragraph G.5, Florida Department of Transportation Greenbook
Our proposal states that students “shall not be required to cross a roadway between intersections or outside of marked crosswalks in order to acquire a safe walkway parallel to the road.”
- “The design of pedestrian crossings and parallel pathways within the right of way shall be considered an integral part of the overall design of a street or highway.” Chapter 8, paragraph G, Florida Department of Transportation Greenbook
- “Marked crosswalks are one tool to allow pedestrians to cross the roadway safely…Marked crosswalks serve two purposes: 1) to inform motorists of the location of a pedestrian cross so that they have time to lawfully yield to or stop for a crossing pedestrian; and 2) to assure the pedestrian that a legal crosswalk exists at a particular location.” Chapter 8, paragraph G.1.a, Florida Department of Transportation Greenbook
- “Midblock crosswalks facilitate crossings to places that people want to go but that are not well served by the existing sidewalk or path network.” Chapter 8, paragraph G.1.b, Florida Department of Transportation Greenbook
- “Of the 61 different pedestrian accident types, the midblock “dart-out” type — where a pedestrian may suddenly appear between parked cars or otherwise cross a vehicular way at a random location — accounts for 13.3 percent of all pedestrian accidents. In three-quarters of these cases, the crash occurs in the curbside lane. One-third of mid-block dart-outs result in a serious injury or a fatality. ” “Pedestrian Accommodations at Intersections” Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Course on Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation
Our proposal replaces the current intersection criteria that requires a minimum of 360 vehicles per hour in each direction (a total of 1 vehicle every 5 seconds) at intersections that don’t have traffic signals and a minimum of 4,000 vehicles per hour (more than 1 vehicle every second) at intersections that do have traffic signals with a criteria that considers the complexity of the intersection. Our proposal states that when “students must cross more than two lanes of traffic, including turn lanes and free-flow right turn lanes, that have a posted speed limit of 35 mph or greater or the designated crossing site is situated in a location where it is likely that pedestrians crossing the roadway on “green” will encounter traffic turning from left turn lanes, lanes where a right turn on red is authorized, and free-flow right turn lanes.”
- “When designing urban highways, the following measures may be considered to help increase the safe and efficient operation of the highway for pedestrians: use narrower lanes and introduce raised medians to provide pedestrian refuge areas, provide pedestrian signal features and detectors, prohibit right turn on red, control, reduce, or eliminate left and/or right turns, prohibit free flow right turn movements, prohibit right turn on red, reduce the number of lanes” Chapter 8, paragraph C.3, Florida Department of Transportation Greenbook
- “These intersections, where the paths of people and vehicles come together, can be the most challenging part of negotiating a pedestrian network. If pedestrians cannot cross the street safely, then mobility is severely limited, access is denied, and walking as a mode of travel is discouraged.” “Pedestrian Accommodations at Intersections” Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Course on Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation
- “The safety literature reveals a variety of risk factors that influence pedestrian crashes and severity. For example, pedestrian crash risk increases on wide roads (four lanes or more) with high motor vehicle speeds and/or volumes. Intersections are more difficult to cross when pedestrians encounter wide crossing distances, wide turning radii, multiple turn lanes, or traffic control that is confusing or complex.” “How to Develop a Pedestrian Safety Action Plan,” National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
Currently, there is no requirement for there to be a suitable walkway alongside the road if the traffic volume is not at least 180 vehicles per hour in each direction (a total of 1 vehicle every 10 seconds). Our proposal changes that traffic volume to 3 vehicles per minute.
- “Annually, around 4,500 pedestrians are killed in traffic crashes with motor vehicles in the United States. Pedestrians killed while “walking along the roadway” account for almost 8 percent of these deaths. Many of these tragedies are preventable. Providing walkways separated from the travel lanes could help to prevent up to 88 percent of these “walking along roadway crashes.”” “Safety Benefits of Sidewalks, Walkways, and Paved Shoulders,” U. S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) National Highway Administration (NHWA)
- “Roadways without sidewalks are more than twice as likely to have pedestrian crashes as sites with sidewalks on both sides of the street.” “Safety Benefits of Sidewalks, Walkways, and Paved Shoulders,” U. S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) National Highway Administration (NHWA)
- “A buffer zone of 4 to 6 feet is desirable to separate pedestrians from the street. The buffer zone will vary according to the street type. In downtown or commercial districts, a street furniture zone is usually appropriate. Parked cars or bicycle lanes can provide an acceptable buffer zone. In more suburban or rural areas, a landscape strip is generally most suitable. Careful planning of sidewalks and walkways is important in a neighborhood or area in order to provide adequate safety and mobility. For example, there should be a flat sidewalk provided in areas where driveways slope to the roadway. ” “Pedestrian Safety Guide and Countermeasure Selection System,” U. S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) National Highway Administration (NHWA)
- “Pedestrians often walk along the roadway in areas where sidewalks or walkways are unavailable. Because there is no buffer between the pedestrian and the vehicular traffic, walking along the roadway can put a pedestrian at risk. It can also be difficult, if not impossible, for pedestrians with visual or mobility restrictions, as the road surface and gravel shoulders are generally not designed for pedestrian use. Sidewalks create the appropriate facility for the walking area of the public right-of-way and dramatically improve pedestrian safety.” “Pedestrian Safety Guide and Countermeasure Selection System,” U. S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) National Highway Administration (NHWA)
- “Paved sidewalks are “pedestrian lanes” that provide people with space to travel within the public right-of-way separated from motor vehicles and on-road bicycles. They should have a level, hard surface and be separated from motor vehicle traffic by a curb, buffer or curb with buffer.” “SRTS Guide,” Safe Routes to School, Engineering Along the School Route
- “Many roads around schools are not equipped with sidewalks and can be unsafe for walking. According to a study by the UNC Highway Safety Research Center conducted for the Federal Highway Administration, the likelihood of a site with a paved sidewalk being a crash site is 88.2 percent lower than a site without a sidewalk after accounting for traffic volume and speed limits[McMahon et al., 2002]. A study of the California SRTS program has shown that providing sidewalks is one of the most effective engineering measures in encouraging children to walk to school [Boarnet et al., 2005].” “SRTS Guide,” Safe Routes to School, Engineering Along the School Route