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Improvements aim to make Bayshore Boulevard safer for pedestrians


Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa

After a mother pushing her toddler in a stroller were killed by a speeding car while trying to walk cross Bayshore Boulevard last month, public comments about the safety of the scenic roadway turned into an outcry that the City of Tampa should do more to protect pedestrians and bicyclists.

As a result, the City has already reduced the speed limit on Bayshore to 35 mph, and is now expediting additional parts of an improvement plan along Bayshore Boulevard. The plan also includes reducing motorized traffic lane widths, as well as the addition of bike lane buffers and crosswalks equipped with flashing beacons. A number of cosmetic improvements will also be made to refresh painted markings along the road.

The city first held a public meeting to discuss its Safety Action Plan in February 2017. They heard so many differing opinions on the detail and extent of the improvements that Jean Duncan, the city's Transportation and Stormwater Services Director, says the city decided to revisit the issue with the public at a later date. 

But in the wake of the recent fatal crash, the city has decided to skip the public discussion and move forward with the latest improvement plan.

“We have put out a schedule and will expedite all the work to be done,” Duncan says. “We're not holding any more public meetings at this point. We are going to get the improvements put in and, in terms of the [crosswalk] beacons, if there are any issues with the locations, we can pick them up and relocate them [later].”

The Safety Action Plan includes replacing all speed limit signs with 35 mph signs, adding visible speed limit plaques, constructing new pedestrian crosswalks, reducing the width of lanes to 10 feet, and providing buffered bike lanes.

“Whenever we have narrower travel lanes, responsible drivers react to that by modifying their speed appropriately, so they can stay within their travel lane,” Duncan says. “That creates traffic calming. There’s lots of data out there that shows that for every 10-mile-per-hour reduction, there's an exponential improvement in pedestrian safety.”
 
A 2011 report by Brian Tefft, a researcher at the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, shows how small changes in traffic speeds can greatly decrease fatality rates. A pedestrian hit at 40 mph is 45 percent likely to be killed on average. At 35 mph, that rate decreases to 31 percent.

Still, many citizens think these efforts don't go far enough to make the busy boulevard safe. The popular boulevard along Hillsborough Bay is lined with luxury condos and private homes connecting downtown with MacDill Air Force Base, and includes what some claim is the longest continuous sidewalk in the world at 4.5 miles. At the time of this story's publication, nearly 5,200 people had signed a petition on change.org calling for 25 mph speed limits and heavier enforcement, with a long-term goal of closing Bayshore's waterfront lanes to motorized traffic, transitioning Bayshore Boulevard into a two-lane scenic route.

Implementing the Safety Action Plan will come at an estimated cost of $485,000 and will be completed in stages, with all work scheduled for completion by October 2018.

Read more articles by Dyllan Furness.

Dyllan Furness is a freelance writer and born-again Floridian based in Tampa. He covers the Tampa Bay Area’s development boom for 83 Degrees, with an eye out for sustainable and community-driven initiatives. 
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