The Florida Department of Transportation has been awarded a $1 million grant to help improve pedestrian and bike safety in Gainesville— something that may benefit those who are looking down at their smartphones.
The University of Florida, The City of Gainesville, and FDOT will be collaborating on the Bicycle-Pedestrian Safety Project.
“This is a notification system that we can let them know that an emergency vehicle may be coming down the roadway,” said Chip Skinner, City of Gainesville spokesman. “That it is safe for them to cross or it is not safe for them to cross.”
Officials say the project will test pedestrian and bicyclist traffic to give them estimated times of arrival to their destinations based on foot traffic patterns. Officials say this makes UF a perfect candidate for trials.
“There’s a lot of foot traffic in the afternoon and that’s when things get hectic and overwhelming,” said Karina Fernandez, a UF student.
With distracted drivers and walkers, there have been multiple pedestrian fatalities this year.
“We’re looking to have zero traffic fatalities, pedestrian deaths and bicycle deaths in our community,” Skinner said. “So this is another important step towards that end goal of having zero fatalities in our community.”
This project is estimated to cost $2.4 million total. Skinner said the remaining funds will be paid for by FDOT.
“It does seem like a large sum of money,” Fernandez said. “So I think if they use it wisely and take the ideas of students, myself and others into account, it could be really useful.”
Instead of testing technology for an app, some say they’d rather see it go to lit cross walks or improving the quality of the roadways.
“We could really be focused on having our sidewalks nice and flat,” said Alejandro Ruiz, a UF student who longboards to class. “So me as a long boarder, I could really just ride the sidewalk instead of having to use the bike lane and pull myself closer to cars that are a danger.”
At this time, the targeted area for testing includes the intersections of University Ave. and 13th street, as well as Museum Rd. and Gale Lemerand Dr.
“We do not have a definitive date of when this will be rolled out but it’s something the community and the whole country can be looking forward to in the near future,” Skinner said.