When it comes to walking, there are two St. Petersburgs: One is the St. Petersburg of quiet, narrow brick streets, shaded by live oaks, a nice stroll away from Downtown and world-class trails. According to Walk Score, Downtown St. Petersburg is considered a “walker’s paradise.”
Then there’s the other St. Petersburg that makes headlines for being one of the most dangerous cities in the country for walking, where sidewalks are cracked or missing, grocery stores are far away, and wide, high-speed arterial streets make crossing the street a challenging ordeal.
“St. Petersburg is a great city- that’s why I’ve lived here nearly my whole life. But our current transportation system makes it hard for people to live healthy lives,” says Susan McGrath, Executive Director of the Florida Consumer Action Network, a local nonprofit advocacy organization that is working to improve the health and safety of St. Petersburg’s streets.
This February, Florida Consumer Action Network Foundation volunteers set out on foot to uncover the details of what makes St. Pete streets great places to walk- or not. Armed with a “Walk Audit Toolkit” produced by AARP, they evaluated the crossings, sidewalks, comfort and appeal, safety, and driver behavior on six streets around St. Petersburg.
“I had an opportunity to do a walk audit with another auditor that was vision impaired,” says Debbie Reed, a St. Pete resident. “It brought a different perspective, to experience walking a corridor with a disability. The broken concrete that would signal me to step cautiously became a tripping hazard. The palm frond hanging over the sidewalk that I could walk around or duck under became a slap in the face.”
Walk audit participants will present their findings to the St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday, April 6th at 8:30 am. The results will inform the City of St. Petersburg’s Complete Streets initiative, which seeks to design, build, and maintain streets that are safe for people of all ages and abilities and balance the needs of multiple travel modes.