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Orlando roads safer for motorists, not pedestrians

According to a new study by MetroPlan Orlando, the roads of Orlando, Florida, have become safer for motorists over the last seven years, with traffic fatalities falling consistently during that time. But there was a slight rise in 2011. According to MetroPlan Orlando, the rates for crashes and deaths-per-vehicle-mile-driven have also fallen in the area, which a transportation engineer for MetroPlan hailed as great news.

However, the study also reveals less comforting news for pedestrians and bicyclists. Although they were only involved in about 3 percent of the Orlando area's accidents, pedestrians killed by cars accounted for nearly 30 percent of all of the region's traffic deaths. Bicyclists killed by cars accounted for around 3.5 percent of the area's total traffic fatalities, while bicyclists were involved in less than two percent of the recorded accidents.

According to Transportation for America, Central Florida has been deemed the United States' most dangerous area for pedestrians for the last two years. An official with the Florida Bicycle Association blames the design of the region's roads, which he says are aimed at moving motor vehicles as quickly as possible. The official argued that this "cultural bias" makes traveling on foot or by bicycle exceedingly dangerous.

Overall traffic deaths in Orlando have been declining for several years, falling from their 2004 total of 322 to 196 in 2010, a drop of nearly 40 percent. Traffic fatalities rose to 213 in 2011, but an engineer with MetroPlan says that figure is likely a statistical anomaly and does not accurately represent the area's traffic safety. If anything, he said, recent cutbacks in road-widening and other similar traffic improvement efforts have reduced overall speeds on highways and local streets. He explained that traffic congestion slows motorists and makes severe car accidents less likely, leading to fewer traffic deaths.

But slower traffic does not mean that pedestrians and bicyclists are any safer. The size disparity between a car and a pedestrian or bike inherently makes a crash extremely dangerous.

Source: Orlando Sentinel, "Study: Local roads grow ever safer, but not for cyclists, walkers," Dan Tracy, Feb. 26, 2012

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