Pick almost any month and you can read about a crash involving a pedestrian and automobile somewhere along Gulf Boulevard in Pinellas County. Often, these crashes include a fatality or serious injury. It’s an unfortunate and unacceptable situation that results from a combination of increased travel demand, conflicts over limited space, unfamiliar tourists, and a busy combination of buses, bikes, cars and people walking.
There were 467 crashes on Gulf Boulevard in 2015, a number that rose by 15% over 2014. Of that 2015 total, there were five fatalities, with more than 50 crashes involving vulnerable road users, such as people on foot or bicycle. The number of crashes, particularly those involving fatalities and vulnerable road users, is a problem that the Pinellas County MPO and our partners are working to address and solve so that all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders and those in automobiles, can use our beach roadways safely.
Enhancing Beach Access one of three focus areas that make up the PPC/MPO’s Pinellas SPOTlight efforts. Over the next two years, we will be focused on innovative ways to enhance accessibility and mobility. Our goal is to work with our partners to eliminate traffic-related fatalities and significantly reduce the number and severity of crashes. The approach, called Vision Zero, is also a priority in Hillsborough County and other communities around the country.
How will we do this? The MPO and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) are committed to working with the local community to improve safety on our beach community roadways. We are working with local governments, businesses and residents to ensure that planned improvement projects are feasible, cost-effective and locally supported. In addition to capital projects, we are working with law enforcement, agency partners and the public to raise awareness of safety measures and to encourage safe travel behavior. This is a long-term commitment to reversing trends and behavior that has taken years to develop.
As part of our Enhancing Beach Access effort, our objectives are to:
- Improve access to the beaches and along the corridor
- Increase transportation options along the beaches
- Create a safer environment for everyone
- Strengthen transportation alternatives connecting beaches to the region
- Promote mixed-use redevelopment, job creation and preservation of neighborhoods.
Communication, education and analysis are key components of this effort.
This is a big effort and we can’t do it alone. FDOT is a great partner, bringing innovative ideas and resources to meet our shared goal for a safe transportation network. Our beach community representative on the MPO Board, Indian Rocks Beach Commissioner Joanne “Cookie” Kennedy, is working hard to bring FDOT, local government, businesses and residents together to meet these challenges.
How can you help? Join us as we kick off our SPOTlight initiative. A public listening session will be held on May 3rd from 9-11 a.m. at the Madeira Beach City Hall, 300 Municipal Drive, Madeira Beach. If you would like to learn more about the listening session, additional information is available at http://www.pinellascounty.org/mpo/spotlight.html. If you plan on attending, please RSVP to Tina Jablon.
If you are interested in participating but are unable to attend the listening session, please let us know. We welcome your input and look forward to working with the Pinellas County beach community, and beyond, to improve beach access.