New tool could lead to safer streets in PBC

Posted at 7:26 PM, Dec 10, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-10 19:26:17-05

One group has a new tool to make it safer for you to walk and bike in Palm Beach County.

The Metropolitan Planning Organization is now using counters to record trends and data on the number of people walking and biking near schools, parks and commercial centers. 

Local planners say Palm Beach County has the fourth highest number of crashes involving pedestrians and bicyclists in Florida.

Fran Taylor is the bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for the MPO. She says by gathering data, planners can determine how effective changes like widening sidewalks, or adding bike lanes, would be. 

"I tune [the traffic] out, unless I hear a horn going off. Then I hope they don't come up here and hit me," says Barry Staats who fishes canals alongside busy roads in Wellington nearly every day.

He says his daughter is a crossing guard. He hears her stories of close calls and he's seen a couple himself.

"It gives me the chills, I've got little kids who go to school, my grandkids," he says.

The MPO wants to eliminate those close calls.

The Federal Highway Administration awarded the Palm Beach MPO $20,000 to buy these counters.

Taylor says its the first time the MPO has counted pedestrian and bicyclist information. Many other MPOs send people to intersections to manually count.

Crews will install the counter at 54 intersections for about one week at a time.

"If we see locations where there are a lot of pedestrians and cyclists on the sidewalk then maybe we can find a balance for both uses," explains Taylor.

She says the MPO gives municipalities federal tax dollars for infrastructure projects. By having data from these new counters, the MPO can prove the most needed projects get funded.

Taylor says the ultimate goal is to prevent pedestrian-involved crashes.

"It's very unfortunate and heart-wrenching [to see a crash]. We want pedestrians to be safe and the environment that they walk and bike in to lend itself to that," explains Taylor.

Part of being safe on the roads is being educated.

Taylor says pedestrians should use crosswalks and bicyclists should take extra precautions to make themselves visible. She says most bike crashes happen at dawn and dusk.