Just don’t blame us….

Thank goodness for the Florida Department of Transportation.

If it didn’t exist, Gainesville would have to invent it.

Because whatever other other function FDOT may perform it is the perfect foil for locals looking to avoid accountability.

So, yes, there has been another fatality on University Avenue. Yet another University of Florida student has been run down and killed.

It’s happened before. It will happen again.

And every time it does happen, we get the same song and dance.

What a tragedy. Thoughts and prayers to the victim and family. Somebody should do something…

But…FDOT.

Because University Avenue is a state highway. So there’s nothing we locals can do about it.

Same old song, just different victims. I heard it 30 years ago. I’m hearing it still.

It’s the state that has blood on its hands. Not us.

It was bunk then. It is bunk now.

Not to put too fine a point on it.

Here’s why people keep getting killed on University Avenue.

Cars move too fast through the heart of this university city. And they move too fast because University Avenue, with its four wide, straight traffic lanes, was expressly designed to empower cars to move quickly.

There is a solution: Make cars move more slowly. By design. It’s called traffic calming.

“If University had two traffic lanes with buffered bike lanes, cars would move a lot slower and it would be a lot safer. The only way it’s going to change is to reduce the speed of the cars.”

This from a City of Gainesville staffer.

Who asked not to be identified.

Because apparently the only way to tell the truth about University Avenue is under cover of anonymity.

So 19-year-old coed Sophia Lambert died Saturday night on University Avenue. And four other UF students were injured.

Because FDOT.

And 18-year-old junior Margaret Paxton was killed on University Avenue in December.

Because FDOT.

And 21-year-old senior Denise Griffiths was killed on University Avenue last January.

Because….

Either FDOT is the most callous bureaucracy in the history of human civilization.

Or it is a convenient excuse to do nothing.

So what to do? I’m glad you asked.

First the University of Florida – ground zero in all of Gainesville for attracting large volumes of both foot-car-traffic – needs to decide that it has lost too many students to fast-moving cars on University Avenue.

And the City of Gainesville needs to resolve that its “signature” street must be made more pedestrian-and-business friendly.

Then, building upon its strategic partnership, the University of Florida and the City of Gainesville need to go, hand and hand, to Tallahassee and say: Give us responsibility for University Avenue.

Then, pooling its collective expertise and resources, these two local partners can traffic calm University Avenue and make it safer.

It’s been done before. The city accepted responsibility for Main Street – also a state highway – and it is now a much safer, traffic calmed corridor…at least between 8th and 16th avenues.

I have been told (sorry but you can’t quote me) that FDOT likes to give up roads to cities. Because it relieves the state of responsibility. FDOT has tens of thousands of miles of roads to take care of. They won’t miss University Avenue.

And don’t tell me we can’t afford to accept responsibility for University Avenue.

Tell that to the families of its victims.

In any case, we can turn University Avenue into a “complete street” relatively cheaply. Mostly it would involve the application of paint and other tactical urbanism techniques…at least in the short run, with longer term investments to follow.

The inevitable result would be increased public safety and a more people-friendly street life that would give rise to countless new business opportunities up and down University.

Or we can continue to say “don’t blame us…FDOT.”

That’s certainly worked out well so far.

Author: floridavelocipede

A sometime journalist who used to string words together for a living before I retired to run a non-profit cycle touring organization that will henceforth go unnamed, as I have subsequently retired from that career as well. I write a bi-monthly column, theater reviews and an occasional magazine piece for my old newspaper. If I still had a business card it would read: Ron Cunningham: Trained Observer Of The Human Condition. Because like The Donald, you know, ego.

2 thoughts on “Just don’t blame us….”

  1. Is there a way to forward this to Gainesville Commissioner Reina Saco? They are meeting Thursday & maybe this could be addressed? There has got to be a way around the bureaucracy to get this accomplished!!!
    Thank you

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