Jay­walk­ers are fac­ing bar­ri­ers of trees, vines

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Brit­tany Wall­man Staff writer

LAUDERHILL — Most pedes­tri­ans know that dart­ing across a busy road mid­block can be harm­ful to one’s health. But ev­ery day in South Florida, jay­walk­ers take that risk.

Armed with sober­ing sta­tis­tics about the dan­gers of jay­walk­ing, one city in South Florida is tout­ing a new de­ter­rent. When en­force­ment didn’t work, and ed­u­ca­tional ef­forts didn’t stick, Lauderhill turned to phys­i­cal bar­ri­ers: trees and a mesh fence with a climb­ing vine drawn across the length of the me­dian.

Fac­ing an un­friendly, im­pen­e­tra­ble me­dian, pedes­tri­ans are forced to trudge to the near­est cross­walk.

Mayor Richard Ka­plan, now an evan­ge­list for us­ing land­scap­ing as a jay­walker re­pel­lent, brought the idea to other Broward cities Thurs­day at a re­gional trans­porta­tion meet­ing, and will talk to lead­ers at the Florida League of Cities next.

Jay­walk­ing — the il­le­gal act of cross­ing a street mid­block — has proven deadly in Broward and be­yond. South Florida is con­sis­tently listed as one of the na­tion’s most dan­ger­ous

places for pedes­tri­ans.

Just last year, 650 peo­ple died in the state — 52 of them in Broward, 37 in Palm Beach County and 78 in Mi­ami-Dade — when they were hit by ve­hi­cles. So far this year, 277 have died statewide, 26 of them in Broward, 14 in Palm Beach County and 18 in Mi­amiDade, ac­cord­ing to data from the Florida Depart­ment of High­way Safety and Mo­tor Ve­hi­cles.

Two weeks ago, a vis­i­tor who stopped for a pho­to­graph along Las Olas Boule­vard was struck by a hi­tand-run driver and killed. In March, a 63-year-old woman was struck and killed while cross­ing the street near her home in Laud­erdale-by-the-Sea.

The town of Davie re­cently did an en­force­ment blitz, also tar­get­ing peo­ple on bi­cy­cles.

Crash data shows pedes­tri­ans are hit by cars all over Broward, mostly on ma­jor thor­ough­fares with mul­ti­ple lanes busy with cars. Some me­di­ans are de­signed to ap­pear like safe havens, with patches of ap­peal­ing brick pavers that al­most beckon mid-block crossers. “It’s bad,” Ka­plan said. He said thou­sands of peo­ple in South Florida’s year-round tem­per­ate cli­mate get to work or do er­rands on foot. Some bus stops let off pas­sen­gers off mid-block, and on a hot day, with a purse or bags in hand, the few yards to the near­est in­ter­sec­tion can seem like a mile.

Even dur­ing con­struc­tion of the Lauderhill project, jay­walk­ers were slow to learn. The work­ers at the Oak­land Park Boule­vard me­dian in Lauderhill, be­tween 55th and 56th av­enues, had to beg for help.

“Pedes­trian traf­fic is out of con­trol!” a con­trac­tor emailed state trans­porta­tion of­fi­cials in March. “I have triple the amount of cones de­lin­eat­ing the con­struc­tion zone. Pedes­tri­ans are cross­ing mid-block as if noth­ing is [go­ing] on.”

He said they were step­ping over piles of land­scap­ing ma­te­ri­als, walk­ing around ac­tive con­struc­tion equip­ment and tip­toe­ing over piles of pavers.

Work­ers in­stalled a pic­turesque row of palm trees and a thin screen of wire mesh — sim­i­lar to chicken wire — along the sec­tion of me­dian to phys­i­cally bar pedes­tri­ans from cross­ing mid-block.

The state Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion in­stalled the land­scap­ing sev­eral months ago and is study­ing its ef­fec­tive­ness now.

A report from the state is due in Au­gust. Ka­plan said he thinks it will show a re­duc­tion in jay­walk­ing.

Other city lead­ers were in­ter­ested.

Greg Stu­art, head of the trans­porta­tion plan­ning Broward Metropoli­tan Plan­ning Or­ga­ni­za­tion, im­plied that jay­walk­ing might be a hard habit to break.

“The pedes­tri­ans haven’t brought wire cut­ters yet,” he said.

CARLINE JEAN/STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

A pedes­trian jay­walks across Oak­land Park Boule­vard near North­west 56th Av­enue in Lauderhill. The city is try­ing to dis­cour­age jay­walk­ing by bar­ri­cad­ing me­di­ans with land­scap­ing.

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