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Feds help Jacksonville try to end bicyclist and pedestrian deaths

More people are commuting to work on bicycles.
Tobias Ackeborn
More people are commuting to work on bicycles.

Jacksonville is among three Northeast Florida cities — along with Atlantic Beach and Palatka — that will get hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal money to implement new traffic safety programs.

For Jacksonville, that funding is aimed at reducing bicycle and pedestrian fatalities to zero in the next seven years.

The U.S. Department of Transportation granted $280,000 to support development of Jacksonville's "Vision Zero Action Plan," an attempt to eliminate bicycle and pedestrian deaths by 2030. It is one of 510 projects nationwide awarded $800 million in grants through the new Safe Streets and Roads for All.

“Every year, crashes cost tens of thousands of American lives and hundreds of billions of dollars to our economy; we face a national emergency on our roadways, and it demands urgent action,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said. “We are proud that these grants will directly support hundreds of communities as they prepare steps that are proven to make roadways safer and save lives.”

The funding comes at an important junction as traffic fatalities reached a 16-year high in 2021, federal officials said. Preliminary data also indicates 2022 figures, still under review, will remain high and could get worse for people walking, biking or rolling as well as incidents involving trucks.

Jacksonville has followed the trend. Bicycle and pedestrian fatalities have increased in recent years, according to Jacksonville Sheriff's Office statistics:

  • 2018: nine bicycle deaths and 38 pedestrians.
  • 2019: six bicyclists and 52 pedestrians.
  • 2020: 11 bicyclists and 50 pedestrians.

Jacksonville officials have no details on the Vision Zero plan yet because it is being developed. But a news release about the grant stated that development of the nationwide plan is the first step in reaching a target of zero traffic fatalities and serious injuries among all roadway users.

The competitive grant program, established by President Biden’s infrastructure law, provides $5 billion over five years for regional, local and tribal initiatives that range from redesigned roads to better sidewalks and crosswalks. The transportation department also launched adata visualization tool that shows crash hot spots that can help target needed resources.

In Florida, 37 communities received a share of planning and infrastructure funding. Atlantic Beach will get $200,000 for a plan to implement complete streets projects focused on improving vehicle, pedestrian and cyclist safety.

Whatever Atlantic Beach develops must meet DOT’s requirements.

"It will require a lot of data collection and analysis," said Planning and Community Development Director Amanda Askew. "No specific projects [are] proposed at this stage, but the [plan] will identify projects that best align with DOT’s safety goals."

Palatka will receive $960,000 for a safe streets plan.

A map showing all of the awards nationwidecan be viewed here. Another $1.1 billion in grants is expected to be released in April. DOT said almost two-thirds of the awards will also provide safety benefits to public transit users and/or persons with disabilities.

Dan Scanlan is a veteran journalist with almost 40 years as a radio, television and print reporter in the Jacksonville area, as well as years of broadcast work in the Northeast. You can reach Dan at, (904) 607-2770 or on Twitter at @scanlan_dan.