Family, friends and community members gathered on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. for a candlelight vigil in memory of Sabrina Obando, 22, who always loved that time of day because of the sunset.
On Jan. 4, Obando left her red house with an aqua-colored door for work, but while crossing NW 8th Avenue, a pickup truck hit and killed her. Less than a month before, she had posed on the steps of her house and the Swamp, decked out in her graduation gown.
The death struck a familiar chord for many in Gainesville. Last month, more than 100 people gathered to remember the one-year anniversary of Maggie Paxton’s death. She was killed by a vehicle along West University Avenue on Dec. 9, 2020.
And speed tables along West University Avenue remind drivers of Paxton and Sophia Lambert, who also died along the stretch a month later.
Obando graduated from UF in December with a degree in art history and stayed. She was walking to work when a pickup truck hit her.
The people commented and posted on a Facebook group called Gators Against Student Pedestrian Deaths. The group has organized community members and encouraged demanding change from local and state leaders.
State Rep. Michael Grieco represents Miami, where Sabrina grew up. At a Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee meeting on Jan. 12, he asked if the capital budget for Florida’s universities had a section for pedestrian safety.
“Apparently, there is a longstanding history of pedestrian safety issues on and around the University of Florida campus,” Grieco said, adding that Sabrina, one of his constituents, died the week before.
Grieco added on a Facebook post that he had put the issue on the radar of the Legislature and Governor’s Office, and he had spoken with State Senator Keith Perry, whose district covers UF, on the issue.
“This will not be an overnight process, as little in government is, but I wanted you all to at least hear that this issue is one of my priorities,” Grieco said on the post.
Closer to UF, Gainesville City Commissioner Harvey Ward announced on the Facebook group that the city commission would start their meeting on Jan. 20 with a discussion on pedestrian and cyclist safety along with Vision Zero.
The backup material for the discussion shows that there have been 10 pedestrian and cyclist deaths in Gainesville from 2020 through 2021. A chart also compares the number of deaths per 100,000 residents of Gainesville, Tampa, Ocala, Jacksonville and other Florida cities.
Besides deaths, several severe injuries have also occurred. Many of these have centered on University Avenue, but Obando’s death brings other roads into the conversation.
A cyclist was seriously injured at the corner of NW 13th Street and NW 16th Avenue in mid-December.