As I sit through city commission meetings, I keep hearing development proposals pitched citing a trend of buildings for millennials that won’t require the usual city-required parking allocations.
City planners seem to love this concept. The younger generation doesn’t drive, they say. They’ll take Uber, Zipcars, bicycles, mass transit and other alternatives to get around. I hope they do. And I hope they don’t plan on walking.
It’s not safe.
Florida leads the nation with seven of the most dangerous metropolitan communities to walk. The Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach metro area comes in at No. 11 in a report released in January.
It’s not a surprise. The basic transportation grid in Florida has always been to move cars, not people. It’s only in the past 10 years I’ve heard planners and developers talking about alternative transportation. And, of course, their focus is on the most populated areas of our cities.
Those of us who live along the coast, however, know that even along the relatively uncrowded barrier island, it can be dangerous to walk or bike. I live in Ocean Ridge near A1A and hear emergency sirens heading to crashes on many weekend days — most often car vs. bicycle.
This past month there was a posting on our website asking, “Why the rush?” from a Highland Beach resident. I am sympathetic. I find myself staring down distracted drivers almost every time I try to cross the road inside the designated pedestrian crossings.
On one memorable evening this past month, I was returning from the beach with my husband and nephew when we all gauged the distance of an approaching car and figured it would slow as it saw us in the crosswalk — marked as it is with reflective signs saying it is a state law to stop for pedestrians.
Granted, it was getting dark, but we were wearing bright-colored clothing and there were three of us.
The approaching car not only didn’t slow, it came very near to hitting us.
We leapt out of the way, only to have the passenger open the car door as the car finally slowed and shout at us to be careful because “we didn’t see you.” I believe the driver truly didn’t see us and even he was a little shook up. I also believe the driver was either driving too fast or not paying attention. No surprise, Florida is No. 2 in the country for distracted driving, according to a recent national survey.
It’s not going to get better anytime soon.
Not only is Florida’s population growing, but Palm Beach County’s tourism numbers are booming. I witness sunburned tourists riding rental bikes along A1A all the time. And in the coastal areas without sidewalks, I see families pushing baby carriages along the road’s edge. Both seem like logical, even lovely things to do, but I wonder if they are aware of the dangers.
Each year, the city of Delray Beach recognizes a Ride of Silence to honor those injured or killed in automobile-bicycle collisions. This year, that event will be May 17, with the ride beginning at Old School Square. I hope in the future, there is not also a need for a Walk of Silence.
Until city leaders and transportation planners can work out ways to change how we commute and recreate, the onus for pedestrian and bicycle safety is on all of us.
Be careful out there.
— Mary Kate Leming,