Cyclist and pedestrian fatalities are on the rise in Palm Beach County, and officials want to know why.
Members of the Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency (TPA), the public entity that funds transportation projects, and creates traffic safety programs for the county are on a mission to find a solution to this problem, especially since the number of fatalities in neighboring counties is on the decrease.
Florida Ranks as Dangerous for Cyclist and Pedestrian Safety
A 2019 report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) using 2017 data said that 783 bicyclists died in traffic crashes across the United States, with 125 deaths. – almost 15% occurring in Florida. Sadly, the number of individuals killed in bicycle crashes has continued to increase. In 2021, there were 197 bike accident fatalities, – an all-time high – according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV).
Concern among officials was ramped up after an FDOT presentation that provided accident data for the District 4 region that includes Broward, Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River counties. From 2021 to 2022, Broward County had a reduction of 34% in pedestrian/bicycle fatalities while Palm Beach County rate increased 13 percent. More concerning? From 2018 – 2022, Broward County had a 52% decline, while Palm Beach County increased by 31%.
Why is Broward Safer for Bicyclists and Pedestrians?
One of the main reasons Broward has maintained a better safety rate is because the county has a transportation surtax available to fund safety improvements, a funding source that is not available in Palm Beach County. But that does not mean Palm Beach County is dragging its feet when it comes to improving safety for bicyclists and pedestrians.
“We are working on it,” said TPA Executive Director Valerie Nelson. “All of this takes time. We need to do our part in raising education.”
Improvements Coming to Palm Beach County
According to Nelson, several major improvement projects are on the way. Separated bike lanes that keep motorists and cyclists apart from one another by a physical barrier, instead of just a painted line in the road, are coming. The first project is being built along an almost three mile stretch on Lyons Road/Sansbury Way run from Forest Hill Boulevard to Okeechobee Boulevard. Expected to be finished in the fall of 2023, the $6M project is funded by a $4.2M grant from FDOT and the TPA.
New bike lanes will also be constructed in the coming years along Cresthaven Boulevard from Jog Road to Military Trail, Prosperity Farms Road from Northlake Boulevard to Donald Ross Road and Camino Real in Boca Raton. More than $15M has been budgeted for those projects.
High-risk areas will receive enhanced monitoring from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. “High-visibility enforcement” patrols will operate mainly along Dixie Highway, Okeechobee Boulevard, and Lake Worth, as PBSO was recently awarded an additional $50,000 from the county. There is a plan in place, but experts stress that county entities need to be patient. “It takes time to develop safety programs,” said Greg Stewart, Executive Director of the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) in Broward County, TPA’s counterpart. “You can’t do it overnight, And it involves tough choices involving capacity vs. safety.”
Notice: If you have been hurt in a bicycle or pedestrian accident, or lost a loved one in such an incident, GOLDLAW may be able to help you get the compensation that you are entitled to. For a complimentary consultation with one of GOLDLAW’s experienced bicycle/pedestrian accident attorneys, please call the office at (561) 222-2222.