Jaywalkers are facing barriers of trees, vines
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.
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.