Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sidewalks Need Buffers from Traffic

My heart goes out to the parents of Patricia Martin, 8, run over by a small day care center bus while riding her bicycle on Oakland Road at Cynthianna Circle in Altamonte Springs, Florida.  Patricia, who diligently wore a helment (which may have saved her life) remains hospitalized, in critical but stable condition. 

According to the Orlando Sentinel, "Troopers are still trying to determine why the girl left the sidewalk and rode into the path of the bus," apparently traveling northbound behind her.  The photograph below may help partially explain what happened:

Oakland Road and Cynthianna Circle--Altamonte Springs, Florida.
The sidewalk, where Patricia was riding initially, is four feet wide with no landscaping buffer from the road.  Phil Laurien, executive director of the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council pointed out to me that, if Patricia was distracted and her bike left the sidewalk, nothing buffered her from traffic on Oakland Road.  The sidewalk merges with the street at Cynthianna Circle without any painted pedestrian crossing. 

A grassy landscape buffer, like that depicted below, might have avoided the incident.

Courtesy: Jurgen Duncan, Transportation Planner, Canin Associates
The photo above depicts a shaded five-foot sidewalk and landscape buffer perhaps ten feet from the road.  The cross-street in the background has a painted pedestrian crosswalk, setback from the more heavily traveled road and defining the path for pedestrians and bicyclists.  The environment is not perfect.  The brick walls eliminate natural neighborhood surveillance of children walking and biking--a crime deterrent.  However, the photo provides a good example of a more complete street that could lessen the number of parents who experience the terrible anguish of a critically injured child.