Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Carlton: Guess what happened to the guy who tried to walk instead of drive around here?

Six months ago, Kyle Simon ditched his car and pretty much walked where he needed to go. And he did this here, in one of the most dangerous places in America to be a pedestrian.

Can you see where this story is going?

First, some background. Simon, 33, has lived in cities where you can get along fine without wheels, places with better public transportation and bike-friendly streets. But when he resettled in his native Tampa, he figured he'd need a vehicle.

A reasonable if disheartening assumption. While progressive things are happening around Tampa Bay, transportation has not traditionally been one of them. Here persists the belief that you deal with clogged highways by building more highways to clog. We have long lacked an efficient bus system. Uttering "rail" can be high treason.

Simon got a car. In his job in government relations for a Tallahassee-based trade association, he can work from home not far from downtown, or Starbucks or anywhere with decent WiFi. With millennial optimism, he spent much of that year on foot anyway and eventually decided to sell the car. He wrote about it in a letter to the Times, lauding signs of progress like the Cross-Bay Ferry, Uber and Lyft, and urging leaders to push on for better transportation. Like I said, an optimist.

Simon likes walking even where it can be a challenge. He hoofs it to the gym, to the grocery, to friends. He mixes up routes so it doesn't get boring. He buses, Ubers and rides the Downtowner shuttle. He gets mad at himself if his phone app says he didn't hit 10,000 daily steps, his personal best being 42,310.

"I like to feel more connected and know my neighborhood and my community," is how he explains it.

His friends think he's a lunatic. His mom worries. People say: You need a car, it's dangerous here. That last part is grimly so.

Florida is still the deadliest state for pedestrians, according to a January Smart Growth America report. And Tampa-St.-Pete-Clearwater is the seventh worst metropolitan area for people on foot.

Just last weekend, a man walking the shoulder of U.S. 19 in Port Richey was killed when a driver lost control. Video from Monday in Holiday shows a 14-year-old boy hit on his bike by a swerving SUV, a miracle he wasn't seriously hurt. He was lucky.

So, Simon knows, was he.

On May 3, he was headed across Ashley Street on Kennedy Boulevard downtown in the crosswalk when an SUV made a left turn toward him. The last thing he saw was the Aloft hotel valet throwing up his arms as if to try to stop what was about to happen. Simon's head hit the hood. He was knocked down. Later he was checked for serious injuries at Tampa General Hospital. He still aches.

In other cities, vehicles and pedestrians have learned to co-exist better. Here drivers forget walkers and bikers. Some who walk share the blame, like the two women who skittered across the street in front of my moving car just this week, the crosswalk a half-block away.

Simon is even more cautious now. He takes back roads, seeks out drivers' eyes. He'd like to see fewer streets like speedways and drivers more aware. "I think we also need to improve our public transportation options significantly so people don't think they need to have a car," he says, someone who walked the walk and lived to tell.

Carlton: Guess what happened to the guy who tried to walk instead of drive around here? 05/19/17 [Last modified: Friday, May 19, 2017 6:38pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Comedy legend Jerry Lewis dead at 91

    Obituaries

    LOS ANGELES — Jerry Lewis, the manic, rubber-faced showman who jumped and hollered to fame in a lucrative partnership with Dean Martin, settled down to become a self-conscious screen auteur and found an even greater following as the tireless, teary host of the annual muscular dystrophy telethons, has died. He was …

    In this Sept. 2, 1990, file photo, entertainer Jerry Lewis makes his opening remarks at the 25th Anniversary of the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon fundraiser in Los Angeles. Lewis, the comedian whose fundraising telethons became as famous as his hit movies, has died according to his publicist. [Associated Press]
  2. Mastermind of lottery rigging scam that netted millions faces 25 years

    Nation

    DES MOINES, Iowa — For a decade, computer programmer Eddie Tipton reliably showed up for work at the central Iowa office of the Multi-State Lottery Association and earned the confidence of his co-workers, a team of technicians entrusted to build computers used to randomly pick numbers for some of the most popular …

    FILE - In this June 29, 2017, file photo, Eddie Tipton, the former Multi-State Lottery Association information security director who admitted to masterminding a scheme to rig lottery games that paid him and others $2 million from seven fixed jackpots in five states, is seen in court in Des Moines, Iowa. Tipton is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday, Aug. 22. (Rodney White/The Des Moines Register via AP, File) IADES501
  3. Pasco County man killed in wrong-way crash on New Jersey Turnpike

    Accidents

    MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. — Authorities say a Florida man driving the wrong way on the New Jersey Turnpike was killed when his SUV crashed head-on into another vehicle.

  4. No bond for suspect in Kissimmee officers' fatal shooting

    Crime

    KISSIMMEE — A suspect in the fatal shooting of two police officers in Florida will be staying in jail after a judge denied him bond Sunday, saying there was probable cause for his first-degree murder charge

    Officers Matthew Baxter, left, and Sam Howard, right, who were both shot and killed in Kissimmee, Florida, on Friday, Aug. 18, 2017. [Kissimmee Police]
  5. Tampa police arrest 22-year-old man in July murder

    Crime

    TAMPA — Police arrested Sunday a 22-year-old man who detectives said shot and killed a Tampa man after an argument.

    Tampa police arrested Dejonta Felder, 22, in the murder of 32-year-old Julius R. Carter. [Tampa Police Department]