Pedestrians in the University Area say they're often put themselves at risk to get around their neighborhoods, as many of the area’s sidewalks are broken, cracked, blocked, flooded or nonexistent.
The University Area Community Development Corporation joined forces with the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning for Transportation, Hillsborough County City-County and Florida Department of Health Hillsborough County to create the study, which about 300 residents answered.
“Residents of the University Area Community deserve to have sidewalks where parents can push their strollers or hold hands as they walk down the street without the fear that they will be hit by a car,” said Sarah Combs, University Area CDC CEO and executive director. “The outcomes of this study will help to shine a light on what is needed in this community and the University Area CDC will be working with partners to leverage resources and funding for improvements.”
Neighborhoods that are conducive to walking and biking enjoy many benefits, including increased property value, residents’ health, improved economy as pedestrians shop at local businesses, and increased connectivity and sense of safety, due to comradery among neighbors.
48 percent said that sidewalks inconveniently start and stop and 45 percent said they were broken or cracked. Nineteen percent reported that sidewalks were blocked, and 17 percent, flooded.
Additionally, 23 percent reported an absence of sidewalks and 16 percent reported rarely having enough room to walk.
Regarding drivers, nearly 60 percent of survey respondents reported that drivers don’t stop at pedestrian crossings and 57 percent reported that drivers only sometimes or rarely follow traffic laws.
Streets are mostly easy to cross, said 57 percent of respondents, but 44 percent reported that streets are sometimes or rarely easy to cross.
The biggest obstacle reported was a lack of striped crosswalks.
Information from the study will be used for improving the neighborhoods. A few ideas being considered include adding street lights and green areas, repairing and expanding sidewalks, increasing street signals and enforcing traffic laws.
After a child died playing in the street in this neighborhood a few years ago, residents like Ray Coward feel these changes are a long time coming.
"It would get people off the street and on the sidewalk and that is what we need," he said.