The nonprofit group Smart Growth America said pedestrians in Cape Coral and Fort Myers are at most risk based on the number of people struck and killed by cars between 2005 and 2014.
Dan Moser is with the local advocacy coalition Bike, Walk, Lee. He’s not surprised with the latest report. Moser said Lee County’s roads are designed like highways, which he said induces speed. Plus, he said there’s a lack of sidewalks and amenities for walkers and cyclists.
"But even where they do exist, and they're up against a highway, you gotta cross a 6, 8,12-lane intersection that's not very friendly to you-- doesn’t matter how many sidewalks you have or crosswalks. It's just not conducive to people wanting to use them," said Moser.
But the study’s data stops at 2014, and Moser said a lot of improvements have been made by the county in the last couple years.
Donald Scott, with the Lee County Metropolitan Planning Organization, said they’ve adopted a master plan looking into pedestrian and cyclist needs. In 2015, they got $40 million from state and federal funds, alone, to make Lee County streets pedestrian-friendly. But Scott said it’s not just about infrastructure.
"One of the things we'd like to see also from the education side of it is more attentive driving, avoid distraction" said Scott. "Quite a few of these fatalities happen at night-- about 40 percent. And wearing bright clothing and flashlights and reflective clothing would help."
Scott hopes to see some more changes within the next five years. But Lee County is not the only one with the problem. Eight out of the top 10 worst metro areas in the country were in Florida, placing the state as the most hazardous for pedestrians.
More than 5,000 people died walking on Florida roads between 2005 and 2014. Alex Dodd is with the group that released the report. She said overall, people of color in low income communities and older adults were most affected.
"For people of color and low income communities, we know those populations walk more. So the more that you walk, as a pedestrian, the greater your exposure is to being struck and killed or just being struck and injured," she said. "For older adults... they move more slowly, have lower eyesight and sometimes pedestrian infrastructure is just not built to accommodate those types of impairments."
Dodd said she hopes the Florida Department of Transportation uses this study to improve the state’s roads for walkers, especially those at higher risk of being hit by a car.
This story answers a Curious Gulf Coast question from Dan Moser asking, "What are the reasons for our area being deemed the most dangerous place in the US to be a pedestrian (cyclists don't fare well, either?"
If you have a question you'd like us to investigate please add it.