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Miami-Dade Might Adopt Swedish Traffic Plan to Reduce Pedestrian Deaths

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If you're a sentient human in Miami, you know by now that trying to walk or ride your bike around town can be downright scary. Last year, 1,508 pedestrians lost their lives on South Florida roads — the third highest death toll in the nation, trailing only the New York and Los Angeles metro areas.

Those figures come from Smart Growth America, an urban planning group that set out to study where pedestrians are being killed and why. The conclusion: Bad road design is just as much to blame as bad drivers.

That's why it's especially timely that Miami-Dade is considering Vision Zero, a Swedish traffic safety initiative to bring pedestrian and bicyclist deaths down to zero. County commissioners will debate the merits of the program at their meeting next Tuesday.

The defining principle of Vision Zero is essentially that the burden of safety rests on both the people who use the roads and the people who design them. The plan prioritizes human safety over speed and convenience.

To accomplish that goal, cities that adopt Vision Zero have torn up their roads, reduced speed limits, and replaced traffic lanes with bike lanes — all of which would surely cause road rage in a place as me-first as Miami. Some New Yorkers have complained that Vision Zero has increased gridlock and caused traffic to move even more slowly.

In Florida, Fort Lauderdale is the only metro area to have adopted the initiative. Commissioners approved the plan in 2015, though it doesn't appear the city has released any data so far to show how the plan is working. Last year, the city hired artists to paint colorful designs on two crosswalks on Breakers Avenue to make them more visible.

Miami-Dade's resolution, which is sponsored by Commissioner Audrey Edmonson, notes that cities like Los Angeles have had success with so-called scramble crosswalks, which give pedestrians the opportunity to cross the street either straight or diagonally while all cars are stopped.

In one case where a scramble crosswalk was installed, an intersection that previously averaged one crash per month went six months without a single incident.

If the commissioners pass the resolution, the mayor's office would look into whether a plan like Vision Zero would work in Miami-Dade. Even if implemented, though, the plan would likely take years to make a difference: In Fort Lauderdale, city leaders say it will take until 2035 to reach their goal of zero deaths.

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