Automobile dependence has become a fact of life for most Americans. Our infrastructure has favored the wide, high-speed arterial highways that accommodate motor vehicle traffic but create an environment where self-powered forms of transportation are neither enjoyable nor safe.
Our national love affair with our cars has coincided with an alarming rise in obesity in both adults and children, along with associated health conditions. A nationwide movement to make American streets safer and more pedestrian/bicycle friendly is gaining momentum.
The National Complete Streets Coalition, founded in 2005, is a joint effort of advocacy and trade groups, including the American Heart Association, AARP, the American Society of Landscape Architects, and the American Planning Association. The coalition released its Model Design Manual for Living Streets, a guide to help communities institute national best practices in inclusive transportation design and environmental sustainability, even when resources are limited.
The creation of the manual was funded by the Department of Health and Human Services through the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to assist California communities in complying with that state’s Complete Streets law and is available for free download by organizations, municipalities, and communities committed to enhancing quality of life, health, safety, the environment, and community aesthetics, for the greater enjoyment of all citizens. The manual creates a framework to allow any community to create “complete streets” that result in “healthier, safer, and more livable neighborhoods.” Two hundred twenty-four U.S. jurisdictions, including twenty-three states have either adopted or endorsed Complete Streets initiatives.
Communities are encouraged to adapt the guidelines and to prioritize according to their specific needs. Some of the most important elements of the Complete Streets program include creating a pedestrian-friendly infrastructure, instituting traffic calming measures, and creating dedicated lanes and other accommodations for bicycles and for mass transit vehicles.
Florida is in dire need of such a program. The state leads the nation in pedestrian injuries and fatalities and is home to the four most pedestrian-deadly regions nationwide. Some cities are already on board. The Ft. Myers City Council has adopted the Complete Streets resolution to begin establishing a program there.
Florida residents should be aware, however, that one of our own congressional representatives, Republican John Mica—ironically from Orlando, the number one most pedestrian-deadly region in the United States, according to advocacy group Transportation for America’s Dangerous by Design study—has proposed a transportation bill that slashes federal funding for pedestrian and bicycle safety. Mica is the chair of the House Transportation Committee.
Jim Dodson Law encourages Floridians concerned with health, safety, and enjoyment of life here in the Sunshine State to write, call, and email their representatives in Congress, as well as those in the Florida State Legislature, to let them know that pedestrian safety must be a priority.