Florida evaluating road design standards over safety concerns

By Chris McCahill

During the past decade, cities across Florida have ranked among the most dangerous in the nation for pedestrians. Florida DOT hopes to change that. In 2011, Billy Hattaway rejoined the agency as a district secretary and head of its bicycle and pedestrian program after several years in the private sector. His efforts, focused largely on road design, recently earned him recognition from GOVERNING as a Public Official of Year.

Early upon Hattaway’s return to FDOT the agency introduced a new chapter in its design manual, which specifically addresses context sensitive design in what it calls Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND) communities. The purpose of that chapter is to facilitate the proper design of streets in compact, pedestrian-scale developments that meet specific TND criteria. That approach emphasizes narrower road dimensions, connected street networks, and lower design speeds.

Since then, the agency has taken steps to extend similar principles statewide. For example, it adopted a complete streets policy in September and is now re-evaluating urban roadways throughout the state to determine whether lanes narrower than the standard 12 feet might be more appropriate for improving non-motorized access and safety.

Hattaway explained to NPR how the conventional thinking behind wider lanes came to be and why it is time for change. “Because of the nature of land development patterns, we ended up with a lot of higher-speed, larger roads, because people are driving longer distances to get back and forth to work,” he says. “The pressure to increase the size of roads is what contributed to the problem.” The result is what he calls a “one-size-fits-all” approach that treats city streets like highways. This encourages higher vehicle speeds that pose serious risks to pedestrians, as SSTI previously reported.

Chris McCahill is a Senior Associate at SSTI.