Florida's Death-Wish Jaywalkers: Now Interesting to the New York Times

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The New York Times
The New York Times likes to discover things around the country, allowing hemmed-in Manhattanites to observe a little of the goings-on around our fair country without crossing the Hudson. So are born trend pieces on Portland's coffee, Chicago's restaurants, Pennsylvania's Dairy Queens. As for us swamp-dwellers, an occasional huckster makes the news, but what about cultural trends?

Finally, the paper has noticed a local South Florida phenomenon: our suicidal jaywalkers and the staggering rate of pedestrian mortality they produce. You know the ones: crossing six-lane highways in western Broward, milling around the bus terminal in downtown Fort Lauderdale, seemingly waiting for the worst possible moment to somnambulate into traffic, causing horns to blare and tempers to break, all with the silent, unspoken challenge: I dare you to hit me, motherfucker.

And sometimes, people do. The top four rankings for dangerous pedestrian areas in a new study by Transportation for America all go to Florida, with the Orlando-Kissimmee area coming in first, followed by Tampa, Jacksonville, and then the South Florida metro area (including Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Pompano Beach).

The Times made note of this -- hardly a surprise, since Florida routinely wins such contests -- and ventured to Orlando's Semoran Boulevard to witness some of the cringe-inducing foot traffic firsthand. Writer Lizette Alvarez followed residents like Cindy Berdeguez as she tempted fate out of necessity:

Lugging plastic bags and a backpack, she frantically dashed across Semoran Boulevard, a six-lane state road where some cars and trucks whiz by at 60 miles per hour (the speed limit is 45). She paused briefly at the median and raced again. She and a friend had just left the food pantry at Catholic Charities, which sits squarely across the wide road from the bus stop.

Florida was built for cars. Nobody will deny that. Many areas, especially in Broward County, didn't even exist until a couple of decades ago, by which time walking to the store was as unthinkable for those who made the plans as traveling by horse and buggy. Never mind the fact that some people can't afford cars.

Bang on a pedestrian-crosswalk signal button sometime and see if it works. See if the eight seconds you're allotted to dash across the road are ample time if you're lugging all your possessions. Just for kicks, get a friend to drop you off between two stoplights on a desolate stretch of suburbia. Now get to the other side.

That's right: This is war. This is hundreds of thousands of cars a day air-conditioning themselves and their owners. This is a little old lady trying to survive. Soon, it's a guy staring you down, stepping into the road, thinking that there must be a God, or at least a legal system.

In Rome, the jewel of Western civilization, there aren't even any crosswalk signals: You just step into the road, make eye contact, and walk ahead. It's an understood system. The drivers almost always stop.

This ain't Rome.

"Oh my God, the traffic here," Ms. Berdeguez said. "People have no courtesy, no patience for human beings, no respect."


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5 comments
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EFetterman
EFetterman

While jaywalking isn't illegal in Florida, there are certain restrictions placed on pedestrians for their safety. You can read more about Florida jaywalking rules on my site

http://www.lawteam.com/faqs/is....

justinhan
justinhan

  It's been really great going through your blog post, very well informed and described. Great to read and know more about such kind of stuff. 

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Vernon6
Vernon6

It's not fair to call someone a jaywalker when the nearest crosswalk is in another zip code. Have you ever tried to take bus around here? Between lugging your groceries, kids, the heat, the transfers, once the bus finally drops you off across from your home, you tell me who is going to walk a mile to the nearest crosswalk. Besides, crosswalks aren't even that safe, but we do need more of them. Stop calling them 'jaywalkers' and call them what they really are. People. Humans. Mothers and daughters. Your daughter. We've scaled the place for the automobile now it's time to scale it back. Also, these crazy wide roads to motorists no favors, they are also some of the most dangerous for drivers as well. See the 3 fatal accidents in Miami-Dade this AM alone.

Vince
Vince

I recently met with a client who waited patiently for the walk light to flash and he began to ride his bike across the the road, in the designated crossing area.  A driver, whop had a solid red light, drove over him without tapping the breaks.  www.wolfandpravato.com

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