Sarasota Police Department wins new FDOT grant to try to prevent traffic crashes involving pedestrians and bicyclists

High-Visibility Enforcement program approved again by City Commission

This aerial map shows a portion of the area of U.S. 41 between Webber and Hibiscus streets in Sarasota. It will be one focus of the new program. Image from Google Maps

Just a couple of months after the Sarasota Police Department concluded its most recent High-Visibility Enforcement campaign, the agency has received a new grant, so the program can continue.

On a unanimous vote last week, the City Commission approved the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) grant for $37,387.89.

The board members also formally approved an amendment to the city’s 2024 fiscal year budget, which will go into effect on Oct. 1, to incorporate the money for the Police Department.

An Aug. 2 memo from Police Chief Rex Troche, which was included in the commission’s agenda materials for its Aug. 21 meeting, points out that no match is necessary for the state funds. The money, he explained, will reimburse the Police Department “for overtime work performed for designated, trained, sworn officers specific to pedestrian and bicycle safety …”

“The purpose of this funding opportunity,” Troche explained, “is to develop and implement effective community-level high visibility enforcement operations in FDOT-designated areas to improve the safety of residents in the City of Sarasota roadways by reducing the number of traffic injuries and fatalities involving bicyclists and pedestrians. The campaign is a component of Florida’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety High Visibility Enforcement and Support Program in agreement with the Institute of Police Technology and Management (IPTM) implemented by the University of North Florida under the direction of the Florida Department of Transportation with funding from the Federal

Highway Administration (FHWA). This campaign supports the goals established in Florida’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Strategic Safety Plan (PBSSP). High Visibility Enforcement activities will be implemented to educate pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists on traffic laws pertaining to pedestrian and bicycle safety and to increase compliance with those laws to drive down traffic crashes resulting in serious or fatal injuries to pedestrians and bicyclists through goal-oriented decision-making, data-driven investments, and strategic resource allocation.”

Troche noted that this “is the eighth consecutive year the Sarasota Police Department has been awarded this grant.”

FDOT has identified the following as the high-priority areas for continuation of the initiative within the city, Troche added:

  • The section of South Tamiami Trail between the intersections of Webber Street and Hibiscus Street and the intersections of Arlington Street and Bahia Vista Street.
  • U.S. 301/North Washington Boulevard between 12th Street and 24th Street.
  • Fruitville Road between Tarpon Avenue and Midwest Parkway.
  • North Tamiami Trail between May Lane and Gary Drive.

The FDOT contract, included in the agenda materials for the Aug. 21 City Commission meeting, say that the latest program must be completed by May 10, 2024.

The segment of U.S. 301 between 12th and 24th streets will be another focus of the new initiative. Image from Google Maps

In regard to the purpose of the campaigns, the contract explains, “Pedestrians and bicyclists are more vulnerable than all other road users. Traffic crashes involving pedestrians and bicyclists are more likely to result in fatal or serious injuries than any other types of traffic crashes.

“Speed, impairment, and distractions contribute to unsafe conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists and may be included in enforcement operations where there is data to support the need for these interventions to improve the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists,” the contract adds.

Another section of the contract includes supporting data. It says that in 2021, 22% of the 3,741 people killed in traffic accidents recorded in the state were pedestrians; 5% were bicyclists.

“As of 2020,” that section points out, “the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has Florida ranked as first in the nation for the number of bicyclist fatalities and second in the nation for pedestrian deaths. Although tourism is the primary industry in Florida, better than 90% of those killed and the drivers involved were Florida residents.”

Moreover, the document says, “Florida experienced a 20% increase in total fatalities from 2017 to 2021. Over the same time period, there was a 53.9% increase in bicyclist fatalities and a 26.7% increase in pedestrian fatalities.”

This table is included in the agenda materials for the Aug. 21 City Commission meeting. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

A table included in that section shows that, during that timeframe, 2021 saw the largest total of bicyclist fatalities: 197. That figure compares to 128 in 2017.

For pedestrians, the highest count of fatalities between 2017 and 2021 came in 2021, as well: 835. That number compares to the 2017 total of 659.