Monday, September 29, 2014

Freedom and Guns

In a comment on a Facebook post, a friend of a friend stated she was practicing freedom by taking her daughter to the gun range for some target shooting.  I asked her why she referred to target shooting as practicing freedom.  A lengthy discussion ensued about guns but I never really got a direct answer.  But I thought I knew and said I did.  I was asked to give an explanation of that and why I left the NRA.

She was being provocative. That's why she referred to target shooting as practicing freedom. And I took the bait, interested in her use of the word freedom. But admittedly also to call her on being provocative about the whole gun issue. Concepts of freedom and the gun issue are related.

The NRA today is radically different from the NRA I belonged to in the '50s, '60s and '70s. Back then it was all about safety, training and sensible regulation. Sometime in the '80s it was taken over by a group that took it in a very different direction with the result you find today. I want no association whatsoever with today's organization. The NRA's policies today enable gun proliferation and glorify gun ownership and the use of guns. Their support for and aggressive lobbying efforts for relaxed gun regulations at the state and federal level has only led to more guns and a more virulent gun culture.

I believe we need reasonable restrictions on gun access, and on the types of guns sold. I think if private individuals want to own military weapons they should get a special license the same as they do today for fully automatic firearms. There should be licensing of guns and strict regulations on who gets to own them. Any reasonable law biding gun owner should have no objection to this.

We need to change the dynamic and get some of the millions of weapons out there with no other purpose than to kill people out of circulation.

Sensible access restrictions, limits on the types of weapons available, and reductions in the number of combat/police style weapons can go a long way toward reducing the obscene incidence of homicide in our country.

But the moment one mentions anything like what I just outlined, the gun proliferation advocates jump up and start yelling about how we liberals want to take their freedoms away.

I want freedom as much as anyone. I want the freedom to be in a crowd and not worry about all the other people carrying firearms, or someone with an assault rifle opening fire. I want to be able to drive in traffic without worrying about a road rage shooting. I want to be able to knock on someone's door seeking help and not fear for my life from someone protecting their castle with a gun. And I want to be able to confront someone without the fear of being shot because they stood their ground. And finally, I want to stop fearing policemen due to their fear of being shot increasing my chances of being shot inadvertently.

The greatest freedom is community with our fellow humans without fear and with the knowledge we will help each other when needed. It's not arming ourselves and retreating to our fortified castles. That's a self induced prison.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A courageous young UC Davis professor demands Chancellor Katehi's resignation after pepper spraying incident on campus.

Open Letter to Chancellor Linda Katehi UC Davis

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Letter to Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer

Mayor Dyer, I am a ardent supporter of yours.  I was extremely impressed by your leadership and persistence in getting approval for SunRail.  Your efforts and accomplishments to make downtown Orlando an attractive, pleasant and entertaining place to visit are commendable.

This is to bring your attention to the Occupy Orlando protests.  I urge you to support and enable the protesters.  They are frustrated and angry about how the system has failed them.  Their grievances need to be heard.  They have the support of the majority of Americans who share their frustration with the system.  In a NY Times poll released yesterday, congress had a 9% approval rating, an all-time low.  The Occupy protester’s message is extremely important and must be heard.  Our system is broken and must be fixed.  Failure to heed the message I’m afraid will lead to more anger and violence.  Civic leaders can head this off by supporting the protestors’ right to assemble and express their First Amendment rights of free speech.  The need for this message to get out supersedes any need to maintain a curfew on a public space.

I respectfully request that you issue an indefinite permit for the protesters to occupy Senator Beth Johnson Park 24 hours a day.  They need sanitary facilities including porta-potties.  I would personally be willing to help raise the funds necessary to accomplish this.  I am confident that with the overwhelming support the Occupy Protest movement raising funds to enable an orderly protest would not be a problem.

I have personally participated in the Occupy Orlando protests including the march on the 15th.  The vast majority of the protesters want to maintain excellent relations with the city and keep the protests peaceful.  The volunteers that act as peace marshals have done an excellent job so far.  Clashes with the Orlando Police Department such as took place the other night just make some protesters more angry and make the job of the peace marshals more difficult.

Mayor Dyer, these protests constitute an opportunity for you to show your leadership on this critical issue.  I urge you to act decisively now.  Orlando should be an example to the rest of the country, certainly not another Oakland.

Thank you very much.

928 Arabian Ave
Winter Springs, FL 32708

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Pedestrian Safety in Metro Orlando

Advocating a new approach to pedestrian safety and mobility on arterial and collector roadways

Metro Orlando is the most dangerous metro area for pedestrians in the nation.  Urban sprawl, poor planning, land development patterns and the high-speed, high volume collector arterial roadways these propagate are principally responsible for an unsafe pedestrian environment.  Innovative new pedestrian infrastructure is an important part of the way to a Metro Orlando that is more pedestrian safe and friendly.

The past:  The problem and how we got here
The story of how Metro Orlando grew rapidly after World War II in typical suburban sprawl fashion almost totally dependent on motor vehicle transportation is well known and oft repeated.  What this regional planning for total dependence on the automobile and resulting rapid sprawl left in its wake is a sparse network of collector and arterial roads jammed with motor vehicles traveling at high speeds and very unsafe for, and unfriendly to pedestrians.

Metro Orlando is ranked at the top of dangerous communities for pedestrians in the 2009 “Dangerous by Design” report by Transportation for America and the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership.
It is virtually impossible to get anywhere in Metro Orlando without using this network of dangerous collectors and arterials.  Thus all its citizens wishing to travel wholly or partially on foot must use these roads and be exposed to the danger of being killed or injured.

It is not just an issue of safety for those using these streets; it’s also a moral issue of making those streets available for all citizens to use in safe and quiet enjoyment.  Too many citizens feel they have to use their motor vehicle for safety and peace of mind instead of the alternative of walking.

The future:  Where we need to go
The incentives to reduce our dependence on motor vehicular transportation are many and large, and will become even more important and compelling in the near future.  Limited energy resources, global warming, congested highways, reduced transportation funding and unacceptable fatality rates are all reasons to seek alternatives to motor vehicles by themselves, and when taken together, necessitate change.

Moving to alternative transportation modes such as bus, bus rapid transit, or rail all necessitate more walking on the part of transit users.  Making our streets safe and friendly for all users is a necessary condition to adopting these alternative modes.  In addition, the ability of citizens to walk more allows them to pursue healthier lifestyles.

Making the transition:  How to get from here to there
In order to safely and effectively use Metro Orlando’s network of arterial and collector roads, pedestrians have to be able to walk comfortably along the side of the roadway and to cross the road safely and effectively.  An effective way to summarize what’s required is the three “E’s”:

Engineering.  Just as roads must be well engineered to allow safe use by motor vehicles, those same roads must provide safe and effective pedestrian infrastructure.  Today’s roads built with the focus on moving motor vehicles fast, do not provide adequate pedestrian infrastructure.  New, widened and resurfaced roads must provide adequate pedestrian infrastructure to allow safe, comfortable and convenient use, and older, non-compliant roads must be upgraded to the same level of safety and convenience on an aggressive schedule.  Florida Department of Transportation must take the lead on this since most arterials are state roads and FDOT planning, design standards and precedence filter down to counties and municipalities. They have a responsibility to deal with the pedestrian safety issues in a meaningful way, and should be measured on their success in achieving safety.

Education.  Both motorists and pedestrians must be aware of their rights and responsibilities to use the road system effectively and with due regard to the rights and safely of other users.  Equally important, public officials and transportation planners and designers must be made aware of the needs of pedestrians.  Driver licensing must incorporate more pedestrian safety material, and pedestrian education programs must be developed to reach ever more present and future pedestrians.

Enforcement.  As the infrastructure and rules of the road are being put in place, effective, diligent and continuous enforcement is required for the system to work safely and equitably.  This enforcement must be a priority with regional police units and it must be funded by counties and municipalities.

The role of technology:  A bright spot on the horizon
Increasing use of improved pedestrian features such as signal control systems,  l.e.d. and strobe lights give the design engineer a broad pallet to work with in designing innovative pedestrian infrastructure systems.  Some examples are sensors that detect the presence of pedestrians, strobe light attention getting beacons, sensitive vehicle sensors in the pavement, versatile and reliable computer controls, and audible and visual pedestrian warning and information systems. In addition, those existing signal systems should be timed to reduce pedestrian delay, which again discourages walking, and contributes to jaywalking

This technology can be use to design systems that are cost effective ways to provide safe pedestrian access to our road system.  One example is an un-signalized pedestrian crosswalk with a flashing strobe warning beacon activated by a pedestrian sensor, but only when vehicle traffic is favorable for pedestrian crossing.  The pedestrian would be warned to wait for the signal to activate before crossing.

Innovation, experimentation and the scientific method:  We can’t learn without trying
Transportation design is a big, big business.  It is the responsibility of the public agencies that fund and administer the roads.  It is a responsibility that cannot be taken lightly since thousands of users are on  our roadways every day and depend on them to get where they need to go safely, comfortably and effectively.   

This awesome responsibility has created a structure with multitudinous rules and regulations in an attempt to make sure designs are as safe for motor vehicles as they can be.  However, this same structure also makes innovation difficult and glacially slow.  This needs to change.  Design professionals with the ability to authorize new and innovative solutions to pedestrian safety must be willing to experiment with these new ideas and accelerate adoption of those that prove themselves.  Only by trying new things, carefully monitoring the results, and then rapidly approving the winners can we hope to provide innovative, cost effective solutions to pedestrian infrastructure problems.

Future Growth that is Smart Growth will mean Pedestrian Convenience and Safety
Unplanned and improperly planned growth resulting in suburban sprawl has brought on the present crisis in un-walkable communities and pedestrian safety.  Future growth should be planned using Smart Growth principals so the same mistakes are not repeated.  Land use plans and regulations and transportation plans must be tightly integrated to achieve optimal use of all modes of transportation.  Metro Orlando is at the point where there is no other alternative.  Our precious natural environment, our air quality and our quality of life are all dependent on citizens and public officials that embrace Smart Growth and make it a reality.

Conclusions and recommendations:
Action is warranted and overdue to make our roadways safer and more convenient for pedestrians.  All public officials and transportation planners and designers should make pedestrian safety a high priority. Funding to upgrade existing roads, educate the public and enforce pedestrian safety should be provided.  Design professionals should be seeking innovative solutions and be open to suggestions on how to solve safety issues.  Future growth should be planned using Smart Growth principals.  Working together we can all make a difference.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Open Letter to Governor Scott

Dear Governor Scott:

I am a resident of Central Florida.  I did not vote for you and do not support your actions thus far as governor.  I think the way you bought the election was an obscene abuse of the power of the almighty dollar.  You are, however, my elected state governor, and I have some things to say to you.

I support commuter rail and high speed rail.  I think they will be an extremely positive addition to our transportation alternatives here in Central Florida.  I also think they should be subsidized by state and local government and I’m willing to pay the taxes necessary to do so.  I urge you to complete your review of these projects and move ahead with them.  I urge you to work with local government to find permanent, stable funding for transit and alternative transportation of all forms:  high speed rail, commuter rail, light rail, trolley, bus rapid transit, bus, para-transit and active transportation - biking and walking.  Shifting users to these alternative transportation modes will relieve congestion, reduce hydrocarbon fuel consumption, decrease polluting emissions, save money, bolster our economy, encourage smart growth development, and promote healthier lifestyles.

The State of Florida is not a sick business corporation in need of a hatchet-wielding turn-around manager.  Florida is a political entity organized by the people and for the people.  It is run by our elected representatives who we expect to do the best they can to intelligently and openly carry out the will of those they represent.  And that includes ALL the people, not just the small number that voted for you.  We expect our governor to lead not only by actions but by example.  Finally, we expect our governor to be as we strive to be, humble, caring, open and respectful of the needs and views of others.

I hope that over time you will come to realize that you cannot run the State of Florida like a business.  It must be run like the great political institution that it is, with its leaders recognizing, respecting and caring for the needs of its citizens, and setting examples that others will be proud to emulate.


William Carpenter
Winter Springs, Florida

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Witnesses: Teen crossing Aloma struck by 2 vehicles, killed

Orlando Sentinel – Oct. 10, 2010.

Read the full article about 17 year old Kasön Bailey’s death here.

This is the second pedestrian death at this location since a crosswalk was installed in early 2008.  This accident is particularly upsetting to me since I advocated for the crosswalk knowing there was high pedestrian activity there and a high probability of accidents.  Obviously much more needs to be done.

The accident location is midway between the Forsyth and Palmetto intersections, both of which have signalized pedestrian crosswalks.  The distance between these two intersections is 2/3 mile, and this location has high pedestrian activity because there are apartments on one side of Aloma, and businesses on the other.  Strip shopping centers and a RaceTrac convenience store attract local residents day and night.  The crosswalk is not signalized and is unlighted, although there are occasional street lights and light from businesses along the street.

At this point I don’t know if the victim was in the crosswalk or not.  But regardless of whether or not he was, it is painfully obvious that pedestrians are not being adequately protected in this area and further steps need to be taken.  There are three areas in general that need to be addressed in order for pedestrians to be able to walk and cross streets safely:

  1. A sea change needs to happen to motorists’ perception of the pedestrian’s right to the roadway.
  2. Adequate pedestrian safety infrastructure needs to be approved, funded, designed and constructed.
  3. Pedestrians must be educated on the proper use of pedestrian infrastructure and exercise of their rights to use the roadways.
The accident at hand was probably precipitated by too little of each of the above being present. 

Motorists’ Perception of Pedestrian Rights:
Aided and abetted by the automotive industry and transportation officials, motorists have mistakenly gotten the impression that the streets and roads are for them only, and people on bikes or walking need to just stay out of their way.  Transportation officials reinforce this notion by providing all manner of restrictions on the movement of bicyclists and pedestrians to the point where motorists are led to believe they will have adequate notice or warning if one of these interlopers is on the road.  Otherwise it’s fine to maintain the speed limit and do any of the myriad other things people do while driving these days.  This attitude has led to dangerous inattention and frequently reckless driving for conditions on the part of motorists.  The motorist thinks, “If there’s anything I need to slow down for or be aware of, a sign or flashing light will tell me.”

Public officials also reinforce this notion by failing to enforce existing traffic laws designed to protect pedestrians.  There is virtually no enforcement of pedestrian crosswalks where motorists are required to yield.

The laws protecting the pedestrian are inadequate.  In accident after accident involving a motorist hitting a pedestrian, the motorist gets off Scot free, most of the time without so much as a ticket.  This entire section of the traffic code needs to be addressed to remedy this imbalance.

This perception of complete ownership of the road unless otherwise notified has to change.  It isn’t the case and never has been the case but it’s going to take a lot of re-education to change.

Adequate Pedestrian Infrastructure:
Not only do we need many more marked crosswalks where there are none today, those crosswalks need to be lighted and have user-activated beacon markers.  The Aloma crosswalk is a good example of an inadequate response to an accident risk situation.  The crosswalk is beautifully designed and signs erected just as specified in the latest FDOT documents, but it doesn’t do an adequate job of protecting pedestrians.  The only time I’ve seen a motorist yield to a pedestrian is if traffic is backed up and moving at a crawl.  If traffic is moving normally, pedestrians are ignored.  Once that pattern is established, then it is aberrant behavior to stop for a pedestrian, and no one does it.  Since yielding is not required, motorists cease to look for and see pedestrians getting ready or waiting to cross.

There are many innovative new devices and designs that will help protect pedestrians.  They need to be thoroughly researched and the promising ones implemented as soon as practical.  Public officials need to approve funding for these initiatives and give them a higher priority than road projects such as widening to six lanes which increase the risk to pedestrians.

Pedestrian Education on Infrastructure use and Proper Exercise of Rights:
Too often I hear that pedestrians disobey traffic laws and put themselves at risk.  If they obeyed the laws and used signalized crosswalks say these critics, accidents wouldn’t happen.  The problem with this thinking is that it ignores the reason the pedestrian is out there trying to use the streets in the first place:  They NEED to use the streets to get where they’re going.  And to do that they are going to take the shortest, most convenient way even if it involves some risk.  Traffic planners and designers must acknowledge this basic fact and design our roadways accordingly.  And people’s perceptions of pedestrians as outlaws putting themselves at risk must change to encompass this principal.  No pedestrian is deliberately putting themselves at risk of injury or death by choice.  They are just trying to get from point A to point B.

That said, there are areas where pedestrians can be instructed in safe use of existing infrastructure with some benefits to be gained.  Particularly with school age children, safety skills can and should be taught.

However, the most important thing that pedestrians need to learn is the proper exercise of their rights as pedestrians.  Unfortunately, this skill has been mainly taken away by the relentless attack on these pedestrian rights by transportation industry and public officials.

Using the Aloma crosswalk, I will illustrate how regaining this skill can radically change things.

What if, immediately after the opening of the Aloma crosswalk while the signs are new and fresh in motorists’ minds, pedestrians wanting to use the crosswalk got motorists’ attention by placing one foot into the roadway and waiving their arm at the motorist?  When the motorist slowed, the pedestrian advanced carefully into the crosswalk forcing the motorist to slow and stop.  The pedestrian would then do the same thing in the next lane, which would be easier because one car in the adjacent lane had already stopped.  Motorists behind the lead vehicles would observe that cars were stopped to allow pedestrians to cross.  The next time those motorists in line came to the crosswalk they would expect to stop for pedestrians and look to see if there were any coming.  If this scenario is repeated time after time, motorists would adopt the habit of looking for and yielding to pedestrians.  All this because the pedestrians that have the right to use the crosswalk and have motorists yield to them exercised that right.

If a super majority of the pedestrians that use this crosswalk had been schooled in proper exercise of their rights before starting to use the crosswalk, the preceding scenario would have happened and the crosswalk would become a valuable safety feature.

Unfortunately, what happened was that pedestrians saw the traffic speeding by, were reluctant to enter the crosswalk and so waited patiently until it cleared.  The motorists saw the pedestrians waiting for them so they continued on their way.  Eventually the motorists came to ignore the crosswalk and any waiting pedestrians altogether, thus virtually negating the crosswalk’s effectiveness.  A corollary effect of this is that pedestrians observe that using the crosswalk doesn’t buy them any additional time or convenience, so they resume their patterns of crossing where convenient.  After all, it takes exactly the same amount of time, less if the crosswalk is out of their way.

Pedestrians can be taught the proper exercise of their rights again.  We can import instructors from Manhattan.  We’ll just have to make sure they know beating on motorists’ hoods is not permissible behavior in our more placid Greater Orlando metro area.

Over the next several days I hope to learn more about the accident that killed 17 year old Kasön Bailey.  I’ll report any new information I find that impacts pedestrian safety in general.  In the meantime I hope you’ll continue to fight for the rights of bicyclists and pedestrians to share our area streets and roads safely.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Downtown Orlando Stop for High Speed Rail

It is incredible to me that our local Greater Orlando political leaders have been silent on the issue of a downtown Orlando stop for high speed rail.   It appears as though they are placidly accepting the plans put forth by the engineers and technocrats without considering some very basic issues.  Political leaders need to have vision and make sure that vision is carried out.

Having high speed rail go to Disney, the convention center and the airport is not vision. It's a sub-optimal solution and smacks of catering to airport interests and the tourist industry at the expense of Greater Orlando and its citizen-taxpayers.

There are only two segments that can be called high speed rail, Tampa to Lakeland, and Lakeland to Orlando.  The remaining segments are too short to achieve any speed.  The Lakeland-Orlando segment should terminate in downtown Orlando.  The other segments will best be served by light rail.

A downtown station is the optimal solution for Orlando and Florida High Speed Rail because:

  • Downtown is the most likely destination, or at least the center of all possible destinations in Greater Orlando
  • Downtown is a logical place to connect to SunRail which will service the areas north and south of downtown
  • A downtown station will promote high quality renewal and growth in the downtown core
  • Very few passengers will have the airport as their final destination
  • Having a downtown station will reduce car traffic in the downtown core
  • A downtown station will minimize transfers and changes of transportation modes
  • Vehicle miles traveled, vehicle emissions, and congestion will be minimized by a downtown station
  • Finally, after all is said and done the regret of not having a downtown station will be far greater than regret over any extra cost

It may cost more for a downtown station, but innovative funding can be sought involving all stakeholders that will benefit.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Wake up Orlando!  Demand what's right.  Let’s make it happen!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Response to Orlando Sentinel Editorial – Make Our Roads Safer

After publishing a very salutatory article about Bike To Work Day and bicycling in general, the Orlando Sentinel chose to publish Make Our Roads Safer, an editorial condemning Florida bicyclist's objections to HB 971 which would require bicyclists to use bicycle lanes. In the Sentinel's editorial, local bike advocates Brad Kuhn and Might Wilson's views were dismissed as being trivial. The Sentinel cited Portland, Oregon's Bicycle Transportation Alliance as recommending the use of Portland's bicycle lanes.

Come on Sentinel. Rejecting local bicycling advocates' views as self-serving is ignoring the real message they are trying to get across, that motorists and police officers have to recognize that bicyclists have the right to use our roads too, and shouldn't be viewed only as obstructions. Every bicycle that is on the road is one less vehicle using a cup of gas for every mile traveled and perpetuating our dependence on Big O - Oil. The bicyclist is riding to work using his/her breakfast for fuel.

Come on Sentinel deux. Comparing Florida's bicycle infrastructure to Oregon's is like comparing buffalo trails to Los Angeles' freeway system. Oregon is light years ahead of Florida with their bicycle infrastructure. With few exceptions, Florida communities are just getting started with theirs. In too many cases, the initial attempts have been, to be kind, misdirected. These attempts at "bike lanes" are substandard and unsafe. It's too soon to force bicyclists onto bike lanes that are unproven at best and downright dangerous at worst. Serious bicyclists will use the lanes when they consider them safe, but in the meantime they need the freedom to act in their own best interest.

Finally, how does HB 971 make our roads safer as the Sentinel editorial suggests? Is there evidence that failure to use bike lanes has caused accidents? Or is this law for the convenience of motorists who want the slow bicyclists out of their way. Certainly none of the other provisions of HB 971 are concerned with safety: New vanity license plates including plates for the governor, senators and representatives; a provision for 3 wheeled vehicles (safe not); new fee structure for vehicle registrations; and a provision to get DUI drivers who've had their licenses revoked back on the road. And I think there's something about kitchen sinks in there too.

What about making it safer and more convenient to use a bicycle to commute to work? Isn't the long-term goal to increase bicycle ridership and use less hydrocarbon fuels? Anyone who uses a bicycle to commute to work deserves a little edge, and a lot of credit.

Come on Sentinel.

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.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Crist's Everglades Land Purchase: Boon or Boondoggle?

The New York Times ran an article Monday on Florida's $536 million deal to purchase 72,800 acres from United States Sugar.  The article highlights what critics of the deal are saying, that because of down-sizing the purchase Florida taxpayers will be paying too much for land United States Sugar has hand picked to get rid of, and Governor Charlie Crist is pushing the downsized deal to help save his chances in the U. S. Senate race this fall.  The fact that Senator George LeMieux's old law firm, Gunster, represents United States Sugar indicates the principal players have been cozy from the start.  Recall that Governor Crist appointed Mr. LeMieux to the senate seat Governor Crist is running for this fall.  Critics contend the original $1.75 billion deal was $400 million more than the market value of the property and downsizing it has not corrected this overpricing but exacerbated it.  The way the deal stands now, critics point out, the only parties that will profit are United States Sugar and its attorneys.

Environmental groups still support the purchase plan saying this a unique opportunity to purchase a significant amount of agricultural land to aid in Everglades restoration.  They want the deal to go through pointing out that Florida will have an option to purchase 107,000 additional acres in the future when the economy gets back on its feet.  Critics point out the problem with this is that the South Florida Water Management District will not have enough money to properly develop these parcels for Everglades restoration, and in fact has already stopped work on other restoration projects to divert funds to the purchase.  Have environmentalists focused too much on the end result and not on how we get there?

Everglades restoration should go ahead as fast as it can be done.  However we should be getting our money's worth and should be funding those projects that produce the highest return soonest.  I would love to have assurance that Governor Crist's land purchase from United States Sugar meets that criteria, but I don't get the feeling that it does.

PS:  Here's another NY Times article.