Biker/pedestrian fatalities help City keep unwanted rating

Biker/pedestrian fatalities help City keep unwanted rating

Overpass near recent fatal accident not ADA-compliant

Coming in third place isn’t so bad, unless it is the ranking of third most dangerous in the country for bikers and pedestrians. Tragically, the ranking was highlighted last month in St. Nicholas when a man was killed crossing the street, underscoring the need to make strides in pedestrian safety.

James Evans III, a 76-year-old Jacksonville man, died from injuries sustained when he was hit by a truck while crossing eight lanes of traffic on Atlantic Boulevard east of Interstate 95 in front of Assumption Catholic School.

There is not a crosswalk at that location, but there is a pedestrian overpass nearby. Evans did not use the overpass, which would have required huffing up 38 steps and down another 36.
The pedestrian overpass was built in 1962, prior to the 1990 implementation of the American Disabilities Act. According to Mike Goldman, Public Information Officer for the Florida Department of Transportation, there is nothing planned to make the pedestrian overpass ADA accessible and securing additional right of way would be necessary to make it ADA-compliant.

“We are looking into the details of the fatality to determine if the overpass was a factor,” Goldman said. It would definitely take additional right of way to make it ADA accessible,” Goldman explained. “This adds significantly to the price of the project. At least $1 million is an unofficial safe estimate.”

While that area is adjacent to the construction that is part of the Overland Bridge Project, which will ultimately replace 2.3 miles of I-95 with a series of overpasses, the crosswalk is not part of those improvements and will not be impacted, Goldman said.

Crosswalk_02A 2011 study, “Dangerous by Design,” conducted by Transportation for America, studied traffic fatalities from 2000 through 2009 and gave Jacksonville’s metropolitan area the unenviable ranking as the third most dangerous for bikers and pedestrians in the country. This year there have been 19 pedestrian fatalities in Jacksonville from the time period between January 1 and August 18.

According to the meeting minutes from a JCCI JAX2025 Focus Task Force, charged with encouraging Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation, the report “cited faulty road and infrastructure design, lack of adequate spending and enforcement of laws, lack of adequate policies and government staffing, and lack of programs supporting safety as reasons for the poor ranking.”

Task Force chair Michelle Tappouni said that the objective of the project is to make progress toward a more bicycle and pedestrian-friendly Jacksonville, which entails a combination of improved infrastructure and public education.

“The two things are tied together,” Tappouni said and went on to ask “Do the pedestrians not know the crosswalks are there or do they not use them?”
Goldman said that there are many cases where they build crosswalks and overpasses and people ignore them.

District 4 Councilman Don Redman, an avid cyclist who serves on the task force, agrees that education remains a critical component of improving pedestrian safety. Redman knows first-hand how dangerous Jacksonville is, having been hit four times on his bike, one by a hit-and-run driver who left him on the side of the road unconscious. “I am very concerned about the number of fatalities,” Redman said. “We need to make sure people are properly educated and that police are writing tickets to speeders and jaywalkers.”

Redman hopes the appropriation of money in the City’s budget for a full-time Bike/Ped Coordinator will be a step in the right direction. The position is expected to be filled by September.
According to Tappouni one of the best things about the task force is that it involves people who can implement change. The committee is made up of those involved in transportation, pedestrian safety and greener communities.

“We have reality sitting at the table,” Tappouni explained. “The people there can say what’s in their budget, and what the federal guidelines are. They are the people who can make it happen.”
By Lara Patangan
Resident Community News

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