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Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office gets $30K grant to target pedestrian and bicycle safety

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

It’s a well-known fact that Florida is an extremely dangerous state when it comes to bicyclists and pedestrians.

What may not be as well-known is for at least the last year, Pinellas County was most dangerous of all.

Pinellas County has the highest fatality rate for pedestrians involved in traffic crashes among urbanized Florida counties, according to an annual report of traffic crashes released last fall.

To address that dubious achievement, the Pinellas County Sheriffs Department will soon begin an education and safety project at nine different hot spot areas in the county to attempt to reduce traffic crashes and fatalities involving pedestrians and bicyclists.

Beginning next Monday and lasting through May 15, Pinellas County deputies will be conducting what is being called on-the-street high-visibility education and enforcement details that will stress the importance of pedestrian and bicycle safety. The Florida Department of Transportation is funding the project at a cost of $29, 640.

According to a news release, the operation will include the distribution of educational materials, as well as the issuance of warnings and/or citations to pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists in accordance with Florida Statutes. The operation will follow a two-phase progression. Phase one of the operation will focus on education and the issuance of warnings to violators. Phase two of the operation will focus on the issuance of citations.

The assigned deputies will conduct high visibility patrol details three times a week, at 9 different predesignated “hot spots,” over the three month period. Deputies will also be handing out free bike lights to those bicyclists they come in contact with that need lights.

The 9 different “hot spot” locations include:

— Seminole Boulevard (Walsingham Road to 94th Avenue)

— Ulmerton Road (Belcher Road to 58th Street North)

— Main Street/ SR 580 (Belcher Road to Patricia Avenue)

— Pasadena Ave. (Grevilla Ave. S to Gulf Blvd.)

— Gulf Boulevard (75th Avenue to 37th Avenue)

— Gulf Boulevard (129th Avenue West to 131st Avenue West)

— Gulf Boulevard (150th Avenue to 155th Avenue)

— Gulf Boulevard (Central Ave to 1st St)

— Curlew Road (Belcher Road to Northridge Drive)

The “2016 Traffic Crash Trends and Conditions Report” that was released last fall also showed Pinellas with a pedestrian fatality rate that was 80 percent higher than the national average over the five-year period from 2011-2015.

When compared with Palm Beach, Orange, Miami-Dade, Hillsborough and Broward counties, Pinellas ranked No. 1 in pedestrian fatalities three years during 2011-2015. Pinellas ranked No. 2 one of those years and No. 3 the other year. The national average of pedestrian deaths for that period was 1.49 pedestrian fatalities per capita; Pinellas had 3.5 per capita.

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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