08 Feb USF taps grant for pedestrian, cyclist safety
Florida Department of Transportation is making UCF pedestrians and cyclists aware of safety and regulations. Click to read more. Do you think our City of Delray Beach would benefit from a similar grant? Let HPD know!
TAMPA — White riderless bicycles and tiny wooden crosses mark where pedestrians and bicyclists have lost their lives around the University of South Florida, and university police hope a new grant program will help stop the grim signs from multiplying.
The effort will mean stricter enforcement of pedestrians, cyclists and motorists navigating some of the county’s most dangerous roads.
Starting this month, the USF Police Department will issue warnings to pedestrians and bicyclists breaking traffic laws on and around the USF campus and will switch to issuing citations next month. All will receive handouts on how to properly share the road.
The crackdown on violators is the “high-visibility enforcement” stage of a $14,607 grant from the Florida Department of Transportation’s Bicycle/Pedestrian Focused Initiative and USF’s Center for Urban Transportation Research.
University police have spent the months since receiving the grant in October handing out pamphlets to pedestrians, cyclists and motorists on campus, Capt. Meg Ross said.
The grant money allows university police to pay two officers overtime for four hours once a week to monitor pedestrians and cyclists on campus through May, Ross said. The first weekly traffic sweep is scheduled for Thursday. University police jurisdiction extends 1,000 feet past the perimeter of the campus and includes all surrounding roads, USF’s The Claw golf course and the nature preserve on Fletcher Avenue extending to the Hillsborough River.
Some violations that could result in a ticket include jaywalking, riding a bicycle on the wrong side of the road or failing to stop a vehicle before a crosswalk at an intersection.
“It will always be at the officer’s discretion whether a citation is issued,” Ross said. “I know we’ve handed out a lot of educational materials, so I hope we’ll see numbers coming down.”
USF’s police department is one of 40 agencies taking part in the crackdown at high-priority areas across the state, including the University of Florida, said Trenda McPherson, bicycle pedestrian safety program manager with the state transportation department.
Selected areas represent about 20 percent of the state but account for most bicycle- and pedestrian-related incidents, she said.
“We are continuously working to look from every angle — education, enforcement, engineering, emergency response — to make sure we protect the most vulnerable on the road,” McPherson said.
The transportation department has worked since 2011 to make safety improvements and conduct traffic studies on areas of major concern such as Fletcher Avenue and Busch Boulevard, used for USF travel and deemed two of the county’s most dangerous roads.
Since the department launched the initiative, more people are paying attention to the law, according to public opinion surveys and observations in high-impact areas, McPherson said. Still, the statistics remain staggering.
Last year, 51 pedestrians died in traffic accident in Hillsborough County, compared with 34 in 2014 — the highest number on record.
In the five years from January 2009 to December 2014, four people died and 46 were hurt in 56 pedestrian accidents along the 3½-mile stretch of East Busch Boulevard from North Nebraska Avenue to North 56th Street.
East Fletcher recorded one of the highest pedestrian accident rates in Hillsborough County — three deaths and 22 incapacitating injuries in 63 pedestrian accidents during the five years from 2006 through 2010.
Last year, Florida’s bicyclist death rate was ranked highest in the nation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A growing number of new residents and tourists could be one reason, McPherson said. Cellphones being used while walking, driving and cycling is a major contributor.
Ross said she can only recall one fatality on the USF campus since 2013, on Fletcher Avenue.
“We have a very large population of people riding bikes and walking and traveling to and from campus by means other than motor vehicles,” Ross said. “Even if the statistics on campus aren’t really high numbers, that’s relative if it’s you that’s the victim of a car not yielding to a pedestrian right of way.”