Sunday, April 11, 2010

Pedestrian Crosswalk Needed – Semoran at Full Sail University

Full Sail University has grown to a major, four year university with 8,800 students. Located at the southeast quadrant of Semoran Boulevard and University Boulevard in Winter Park, Full Sail, like other universities its size, has many students that live close by and walk or bike to class. Unfortunately, the area around the university is typical Florida sprawl with little or no consideration given to walkablility and pedestrian safety. In fact both Semoran Boulevard and University Boulevard are major arterial roads, 6 to 8 lanes wide. This presents a clear and present danger to students who walk or bike to class and have to cross these roads. Semoran Boulevard carries 60,000 vehicles per day at 45 mph and higher. As a major arterial road it carries traffic from the suburbs to downtown Orlando and Orlando International Airport and back.

There are two signalized intersections on Semoran flanking the Full Sail campus, University Boulevard to the north and Banchory Road to the south. Students coming from or going to the campus from the west side of Semoran can cross at Banchory, University, or mid-block.

On April 1, 2010, the author counted the students crossing at each of the three possible locations. I also took many photographs of pedestrians as they crossed. You can see a slide show at the end of this post. I observed from a location on the east side of Semoran midway between University and Banchory. From this point it was easy to count the mid-block crossings, but somewhat more difficult to count the crossings at University and Banchory. As a result, those crossing counts may not be as accurate as those of the mid-block crossings.

I spent a total of 3 hours and 40 minutes counting in three shifts: 8:05 AM to 9:30 AM; 11:55 AM to 1:15 PM; and 4:55 PM to 5:55 PM. The following table shows the counts that were made:

I was surprised to find the number of midblock crossings was more than double the number of crossings at the two signalized intersections at University and Banchory. Even if some of those intersection crossings were missed, the disparity is still very great. This indicates pedestrians have a preference for crossing mid-block as opposed to the signalized crossings. This preference can be explained as follows:

  1. The distance between University and Banchory is ½ mile. A pedestrian starting at a point midway between the two intersections would have to walk an additional ½ mile to cross at one of the intersections, a walk which would take approximately 15 minutes.
  2. Crossing mid-block is usually faster than crossing at a signalized intersection. Arterial roads like Semoran have long signal times especially at rush hours to enable large traffic volumes to move through the intersections. Crossing mid-block merely involves waiting until the traffic clears in one direction, crossing to the median, waiting until traffic clears in the opposite direction, then crossing the remaining lanes. The timing of adjacent signals virtually assures a significant traffic-clear interval to cross.
The following map shows the section of Semoran Boulevard being discussed as well as the location of the Full Sail University Campus.

A mid-block crosswalk at the location indicated would provide the pedestrians currently crossing Semoran in this general area a safe way to cross. The benefits of a crosswalk are several:

  1. Allow pedestrians to cross at a highly visible, signed location where motorists will expect to have them cross.
  2. By using a marked crosswalk, pedestrians are given the protection of Florida law which requires motorists to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk.
  3. Without a crosswalk the pedestrian is at fault if he/she fails to yield to a vehicle. In other works crashes that occur outside a crosswalk are always the pedestrian's fault.
  4. The crosswalk can be signalized if desired.
  5. As an effective alternate to signalization, flashing beacon lights can be utilized to signal to motorists when pedestrians are in the crosswalk. This type of crosswalk has proven highly effective in obtaining motorist yield compliance in other jurisdictions.
  6. The cost of an un-signalized crosswalk with beacon lights is significantly lower than a signalized crosswalk and cost effective in providing pedestrian protection.
The three hour forty minute sample taken April 1 represents only a portion of the crossings each day. Multiply daily crossings by the number of school days in the year and the number of crossings annually is in the tens of thousands. How long will it take before someone is hit and injured or killed?

This is an appeal to the major stakeholders: Full Sail University, Orange County, Florida Department of Transportation, and Metroplan Orlando to work together to approve and construct a crosswalk at the designated location. Let's all work to make this area and all of Metro Orlando a safer and more pleasant place to walk. It makes good sense both for safety and the economy.

Safe and comfortable places to walk make healthier and more prosperous communities.