As pedestrians we’re always in one of two situations: We’re either walking on or along the road or we’re crossing the road, and we hope we can do it safely.
When it comes to determining whether either of those scenarios is safe for our children as they walk to and from school, school districts look to section 1006.23 of the Florida statutes which says that it’s not hazardous for children to walk on the road unless the traffic volume is at least 180 vehicles per hour in each direction, a total of 360 vehicles per hour. That amounts to 1 vehicle every 10 seconds. Then, the statute says that crossing a road at an intersection controlled by a stop sign or stop light isn’t hazardous for our children unless the traffic volume is at least 4,000 vehicles per hour, an average of more than 1 vehicle per second.
Can you imagine your child or your grandchild—or yourself—in either of those two scenarios, looking over your shoulder every 10 seconds to avoid being hit by a car as you walk along the road or finding yourself in an unwinnable and potentially tragic race to cross the road at an intersection while dodging vehicles at a rate of more than one every second?
That unbelievably unrealistic criteria might help explain why, statewide, fewer than 1% of students are transported to school around hazardous walking conditions and 35 of Florida’s 67 school districts transport NO students who live within 2 miles of school so they can avoid hazardous walking conditions. Is that because there are no hazardous walking conditions in those areas?
Year after year Florida sits at the very top of the Smart Growth America/Complete Streets Coalition annual “Dangerous by Design” report’s ranking of the most dangerous states in America for pedestrians.
And the news isn’t any better at the metro level. America’s 6 most dangerous metropolitan areas for pedestrians—and 8 of America’s 10 most dangerous metro areas—are located in Florida; however, the school districts that serve those metro areas transport less than one percent of their students due to hazardous walking conditions.
Florida’s hazardous walking conditions statute should do what it purports to do: identify conditions that are hazardous to students and satisfy the Constitutional and statutory requirement to provide for safe access to public education.
As the Florida legislature approaches its 2021 session, legislation designed to fix section 1006.23 of the Florida statutes will make its way through the legislative process. That legislation takes a commonsense approach to determining when walking conditions are hazardous for students, and it provides transportation service eligibility for students who encounter those conditions.