Bradenton officials took exception to a recent report released this week that showed the Bradenton-Sarasota-North Port area was the 10th most dangerous for pedestrians in the nation.
Ward 2 City Councilman Gene Brown said the negative headlines hide the tremendous effort the city is putting forward in promoting pedestrian safety. Ultimately, he said, it also comes down to personal responsibility.
“Most of the deaths were pedestrians not in crosswalks,” Brown said. “Our staff does a great job, so maybe it comes down to an educational thing. When you have a lot of people trying to cross where they shouldn’t, that’s where the accidents are happening and people are getting killed. It’s the education to keep people safe and to make sure they are doing the proper legal things to protect all of us.”
For the first time in the city’s history, the Bradenton Police Department recently received a pedestrian safety grant in the amount of $18,000. Chief Melanie Bevan said that money has already been put to work.
We don’t like to hit people where it counts in the pocketbook, but if that is what it takes to save lives and to let people know in the city that we are committed to doing this, then we’ll do what we have to do.
Bradenton Police Chief Melanie Bevan
“Part of the grant has been used toward sending officers out to educate the public and inform them that we will begin enforcement measures for jaywalking,” she said. “We don’t like to hit people where it counts in the pocketbook, but if that is what it takes to save lives and to let people know in the city that we are committed to doing this, then we’ll do what we have to do.”
Bevan said the department already had a more aggressive education and enforcement campaign underway, prior to the release of the Smart Growth America report based off data from Florida’s Integrated Report Exchange System. The grant money has been paying overtime hours for officers with the specific goal of identifying jaywalkers.
“We recognize that pedestrian-related accidents are on the rise in the city of Bradenton,” Bevan said. “The grant isn’t just about enforcement but to identify these jaywalkers and let them know that it’s dangerous and against the law. What you are going to see over the next several months is our officers out there ticketing people.”
The report shows 19 pedestrians were killed in 2015 and another 13 died in 2016 in Manatee County. One fatality has already been recorded this year.
Mayor Wayne Poston said Bradenton drivers are very much aware of the number of people who cross dangerous streets at improper locations. He pointed to this past Saturday while driving through one area of the city, “there were seven people crossing in the middle of the street.”