TAMPA — As city workers set up signs Friday establishing a lower speed limit on Bayshore Boulevard, neighborhood residents and transportation activists urged more steps to improve safety for pedestrians all across the city.
The move is a good beginning, they said, coming on the heels of a collision that killed two pedestrians Wednesday. But they said the road’s design should be modified to encourage slower driving and Tampa should work to phase out its car-first culture altogether.
"Until changes are made that tells drivers that they’re in charge, we’re going to have problems with speeding," said Taylor Ralph, a community development and transportation advocate. "I don’t think that simply changing the speed limit signs is going to affect behavior on the road until the design of the road dictates the safety level of the drivers."
The speed limit was reduced from 40 mph to 35 mph just two days after a mother and her toddler daughter were fatally injured crossing Bayshore by a teen driver who slammed into them as he was racing another car, police said. Jessica Raubenolt, 24, of Jeromesville, Ohio, was pushing her 21-month old daughter Lillia in a stroller at the time.
The city plans more Bayshore safety measures, including narrowed lanes and flashing-beacon pedestrian crossings.
Narrower lanes will help, Ralph said, but more pedestrian crossings are needed — on Bayshore and elsewhere. He noted that the same day as the Bayshore collision, 63-year-old Leila Reid was killed crossing 40th Street in North Tampa.
"I think it’s really important for everyone to understand that pedestrian fatalities and accidents with pedestrians is happening all over our city," said Ralph, noting that Tampa is one of the most dangerous cities in the country for pedestrians. "We can do much better."
Research shows lowering speeds likely reduces fatalities. Reducing speeds from 40 mph to 35 mph lowers the chances that a pedestrians is killed by a vehicle from 45 percent to 31 percent, according to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety featured in a 2016 ProPublica story.
City officials reiterated Friday that the lower speed limits will make Bayshore safer.
"Bottom line, a 5 mile speed limit reduction is effective in reducing fatalities and improving safety of the corridor," Jean Duncan, the city’s transportation and stormwater services director, said in an email Friday.
"The truth is by lowering the speed limit by just 5 mph you increase the survivability — not a lot, but this is a good step," said Vicki Pollyea, president of the Bayshore Gardens Neighborhood Association.
Still, Wednesday’s accident was an awful deja vu moment for Pollyea, who served on a 2004 task force that sought to make Bayshore safer after a rash of pedestrian fatalities. Some residents at the time wanted to raise the speed limit to 45 mph on the busy arterial street and resisted sidewalks on the west side.
Pollyea said she hopes the death of the Raubenolts will shift that view.
"I think this is changing our perspective of what Bayshore is. Bayshore is the scenic route. It’s not the speediest route," she said.
In the past, Tampa police have said that about 80 percent of tickets written for speeding along Bayshore were to people who lived within a mile of the boulevard, Pollyea said.
"It’s not ‘them’ that’s speeding on Bayshore. It’s us."
Tampa police couldn’t immediately confirm whether those numbers hold up today.
But police did release data showing warnings and citations along Bayshore are up 43 percent so far this year compared to the same period last year. Crashes there during the period are down from 15 to 12.
Traffic moves fastest between Gandy Boulevard and Bay to Bay Boulevard, Pollyea said. The stretch needs at least two or three flashing-beacon pedestrian crossings, she said.
Duncan said her department is gathering data and analyzing proposed locations for additional crossings between Rome Avenue and Gandy Boulevard. The effort will take six more weeks, she said, then a design must be produced.
"We will also be scrubbing our budget to see how these upgrades will be funded, as this work is not specifically budgeted now," she said. "We will be reaching out to the county to see if they can offer some assistance."
MORE ON THE BAYSHORE CRASH
Contact Charlie Frago at [email protected] or (727)893-8459. [email protected]