Pinellas County is well known for the Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail, one of the state’s first rail-to-trail projects, which extends nearly 50 miles from Tarpon Springs to St. Petersburg. As a compact, densely developed urban county with multiple cities and development centers, Pinellas has many walkable and bike-friendly communities.
Pinellas also has many fast, multi-lane highways that separate neighborhoods from work, shopping and educational destinations. When combined with an elderly population and the 15+ million tourists who visit each year, these countywide features make pedestrian and cyclist safety a major concern for the Pinellas Planning Council (PPC) and Pinellas County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). As part of the Pinellas SPOTlight (strategic planning and operations topics) initiative, the PPC/MPO is currently focused on accessibility, economic opportunity, and safety.
Since safety is a major priority, the PPC/MPO is initiating a pilot Vision Zero approach for the Gulf Boulevard corridor in an attempt to eliminate fatalities and reduce the severity of crashes.
Pinellas County has among the highest rates of crashes and fatalities involving pedestrians and bicyclists in Florida. Serious injuries and fatalities among vulnerable road users have been increasing in recent years despite overall improvements in highway safety for automobiles.
This has to change. A focus on pedestrian, cyclist, tourist, and driver education is a vital first step.
Joanne “Cookie” Kennedy is Commissioner in Indian Rocks Beach and secretary on the Pinellas County MPO. Kennedy represents the 10 beach communities along Gulf Boulevard and she knows how important it is to promote pedestrian safety along this busy corridor. So Kennedy uses a prop to make safety education a bit more pleasing: a Zero candy bar. The message is short and sweet: zero traffic deaths in Pinellas County.
Kennedy is supported in her Vision Zero education efforts by Whit Blanton, executive director for the Pinellas Planning Council (PPC) and Pinellas County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). Blanton emphasizes the PPC/MPO’s focus on safety: “We want our visitors and residents who use Gulf Boulevard to enjoy our beach communities and feel safe when they are walking, cycling, or crossing the street. Vision Zero will employ the tools of engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement and evaluation to help us focus resources and attention on making the Gulf Boulevard corridor safer for everyone.”