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In bay area, walking can be risky

A survey ranks the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metro area as the most dangerous in the nation for pedestrians.

By ROSALIND HELDERMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 16, 2000


Just walking down the street can be deadly, at least in the Tampa Bay area.

The Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metro area is the most dangerous in the nation for pedestrians, according to the "Mean Streets 2000" report released Thursday.

Four other Florida metro areas -- Miami-Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Jacksonville and West Palm Beach-Boca Raton -- also landed in the report's top 10 most dangerous areas. The report uses federal pedestrian fatality numbers, as well as census data showing how many people walk to work in different cities, to calculate its rankings.

"The purpose of this report is to recognize the problem and to encourage communities to note the problem," said Michelle Garland, an analyst with the Surface Transportation Policy Project, the Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization that compiled the data.

For the years 1997 and 1998, 192 pedestrians died in the bay area, totalling 24 percent of all traffic fatalities in the area. For the same time period, Atlanta, which came in second on the list, had 185 pedestrian deaths.

Garland said the report's purpose isn't to scare would-be walkers, but rather to alert cities to changes that could make walking more inviting.

"Unfortunately, we haven't really been making changes," Garland said. "The top 10 have seemed to be the top 10 for a while now."

The Tampa Bay area also was ranked No. 1 in the Mean Streets study released in 1998.

"We're waiting to see what kind of concrete action will be taken," said Ed Crawford, vice president of the Florida Consumer Action Network, which joined with the Surface Transportation Policy Project to put the report together. "I can't imagine there's anyone who likes being No. 1 in this category."

Cities with fewer pedestrian amenities such as crosswalks do less well in the study. Almost 60 percent of pedestrian deaths occur at intersections that lack crosswalks.

Garland said Tampa and some other Southern cities tend to be "more accommodating to cars than to pedestrians." Area residents can back up the study's data.

"I find it to be very dangerous," said Laura Poole, who walks in downtown St. Petersburg every day. "People just don't seem to care that you're out there."

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