Last month, the Jacksonville metropolitan area was named the fourth most dangerous city in the country for pedestrians by the National Complete Streets Coalition.
The study estimated that 2.7 pedestrians per 100,000 are killed each year in Jacksonville – one of the highest death rates observed in the study. 379 deaths were recorded between 2005 and 2014.
Jacksonville also posted the largest increase in Pedestrian Death Index rating since the coalition’s last published study in 2014. The study defined PDI as a “calculation of the share of local commuters who walk to work and the most recent data on pedestrian deaths.”
It also pointed to a larger statewide pedestrian safety issue, with Florida cities accounting for eight of the top ten worst cities.
So what is it that’s causing these accidents?
The study attributes a lot of the blame to poor street and traffic design. Specifically, it says that streets without sidewalks or pedestrian crosswalks and streets with extra-wide lanes that allow for faster speeds are a big part of the problem.
Surely enough, these are both issues that are prevalent in Jacksonville.
Many of the city’s older neighborhoods feature streets without adjacent sidewalks, forcing pedestrians onto the street and into the path of danger. Incidentally, these neighborhoods tend to be relatively low-income areas and therefore are home to more residents who rely on walking as their main form of transportation.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, the city’s wealthy suburban neighborhoods keep sprawling out further. This includes the road designs, with lanes growing wider to accommodate increased traffic. This allows drivers to drive faster than they would on narrower streets, and also takes away medians and curb space that would normally act as a protective buffer for pedestrians.
How do we fix it?
The city will have to change its planning strategies to account for the danger pedestrians face.
However, the implementation stage of this study must come as quickly as possible to help prevent further pedestrian deaths in Jax. It must also include the redevelopment of streets in neighborhoods that generally receive very little funding or attention.
Meanwhile, housing developments must be planned with a focus on neighborhood walkability. Many newer apartment complexes and living communities have already hopped on this trend, but existing communities must be modified to fit the mold as well.
In the meantime, here are a few things you can do to be safer as a pedestrian in Jacksonville:
- Wear bright clothing, especially at night. It can often be hard for drivers to see someone crossing the street in the dark, so standing out reduces your chances of going unnoticed.
- Adhere to cross signals at all times. They’re there for a reason: to keep you from jetting out into oncoming traffic!
- Be hypervigilant. There are a lot of old drivers and a lot of distracted drivers in Jax, so even if you’re doing everything right it’s important to be extra careful.