Safety and the feeling of safety are components of living a successful life.  It is hard to have a high quality of life if you are anxious because you feel unsafe.  From a standpoint of crime of course our sheriff and police and fire departments do a great job in the role by providing safety and security in our community.  Hillsborough County government has a different, but equally important role to play. The infrastructure we build and maintain also impacts the overall feeling of community and therefore in turn the safety and security for our residents.

After World War II we had a new paradigm of development that was completely focused on the car.  Sidewalks were no longer built in new developments because the thought was no one wanted to walk around their neighborhood anymore.  Changes to the style of our homes and type of communities developed were much different than what was typical prior to World War II.

In the 1990’s we began to see a resurgence of cities and new styles of development in some suburban communities that emphasized more walkability while providing designs that let people see the street from the front of their house, providing more safety.  More walkable communities contribute to the importance of health and wellness issues we discuss today.

For the foreseeable future automobiles will remain an important part of our lives, however, they are not all that matter in street design.  There are many more users on our streets in our urban and suburban areas in Hillsborough County. We must design our new roadways to meet the changing needs of the users.  Many areas of our communities have gone from sparsely populated areas to dense urban areas where you have many people walking, cycling, and crossing our roadways. We have targeted design elements to ensure our roadways are safe for all.

We need to build safe crossings for pedestrian traffic, we need to illuminate our arterial and collector streets at night, we need to create an attractive appearance, including enhancing landscaping in the median and right-of-way as they are the front yard of our community.  This is how we show who we are as a community and what we value in terms of safety and appearance. Hillsborough County has one of the highest pedestrian death rates in the United States. This is not a statistic that helps our community in any way. We see this tragedy every day on the news.  It is critical that we analyze our speed limits in areas that have become more densely populated in recent years and yet have speed limits that do not reflect the change in population and traffic.

I believe this is one of the main problems in our community. We have grown and a lot of our communities did not exist in the current form 20 or 30 years ago.  When I visit more established communities, I notice on the same designed type of streets the speed limits tend to be about 5 miles per hour less than in Hillsborough.  I have focused on this issue for some time and I am convinced that we can solve this issue. We can help build a safer environment for pedestrians and cyclists to reduce the dangers they face daily.

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Ray Seal