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Pedestrian deaths run high in Jacksonville

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Claire Heddles
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WJCT News
Larry Roberts from Jacksonville's Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee crosses University Boulevard at one of the city's flashing beacon crosswalks in Lakewood. The crosswalks are aimed at shortening the distance between intersections for pedestrians and cyclists.

Jacksonville is one of the most dangerous cities in America for pedestrians, says an annual report from nonprofits that aim to make city streets safer.

The Jax metro area ranked sixth most deadly from 2016 to 2020, with six other Florida cities’ pedestrian death rates also in the top 20. Daytona Beach was the most dangerous city in the U.S. for people on foot.

The report largely attributes pedestrian deaths to car-centric road design — like inadequate pavement markings, crosswalks placed too far apart and intersections too wide to cross quickly.

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Dangerous by Design 2022
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Smart Growth America

Death rates are up nationally despite a drop in car traffic during the early pandemic. And pedestrian deaths are disproportionately high among Blacks and Native Americans, whose neighborhoods generally have more high-speed roads, heavier traffic and inadequate safety designs for pedestrians.

Although the city of Jax added safer pedestrian crossings in 2020 and allocated $300,000 more for crosswalk improvements last year, more than 50 pedestrians died in accidents both years.

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Dangerous by Design 2022
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Smart Growth America

Larry Roberts with the city’s Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee says the crosswalk enhancements have helped, but a great deal more improvement is needed, including more sidewalks in older parts of town and islands for pedestrians on wide streets with high speed limits like Beach, Atlantic and San Jose boulevards. “We’ve got a long way to go,” he says.

The report comes from Smart Growth America and the National Complete Streets Coalition, nonprofits that advocate for overhauling urban street designs to make them safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.

This story appeared first in Jacksonville Today, part of WJCT Public Media.