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How a new study could help keep bicyclists and pedestrians safe

As Florida Bike Month kicks off, local officials have a new tool to help them make local roads safer for both pedestrians and bicyclists.

The Palm Beach Metropolitan Planning Organization has rolled out its Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Study, which offers recommendations for how to curb the increase in pedestrian deaths in Palm Beach County.

It also paints a dim picture of the current state of safety on our roads — a problem that extends throughout Florida, which “traditionally has the highest rate of pedestrian fatalities in the nation,” Stewart Robinson of Kimley-Horn and Associates, a consultant on the study, said at a recent MPO board meeting.

In compiling the study, Franchesca Taylor, bicycle, pedestrian and transportation demand management coordinator for the Palm Beach MPO, and a team of local officials and consultants pored through five years of data — from 2010 to 2014 — related to pedestrian and bicycle incidents in Palm Beach County.

That data led to the creation of a map showing the most dangerous hot spots and corridors in Palm Beach County for people traveling by foot or bike.

Toward the top of the list: the intersection of Forest Hill Boulevard and Military Trail.

“It was identified as a hot spot in our investigation, and also the number one intersection where there have been pedestrian and bicycle crashes,” Taylor said.

According to the study, there were 15 incidents involving pedestrians and eight incidents involving bicyclists at Forest Hill and Military from 2010 to 2014. Of those, 69 percent happened during the day, and 30 percent were during dawn or dusk.

The MPO chose the intersection for a safety outreach campaign: From 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, officials will pass out educational information and talk with bicyclists and pedestrians about how to stay safe.

“We thought it would be a good starting place, to target the first (intersection) on the list,” Taylor said.

A previous outreach event near the intersection of Lake Worth and Davis roads had a great response, she noted. That location, which is near the Swap Shop, sees lots of pedestrian and bicycle traffic — and sits along one of the corridors identified by the study.

“I think there’s a lot of energy behind what we have collected,” Taylor said. In part, she hopes the information compiled in the study can serve as a guide for officials in whose districts or municipalities the study has pinpointed problem areas.

“We have a real opportunity to help a lot of locations and I think the plan pulls all of that information together,” she said.

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