LAKELAND, Fla. — As the number of swans and people injured by cars driving around Lake Morton continues to rise, the city of Lakeland continues to look for ways to protect not just the beloved birds, but all pedestrian traffic in the area.

Swans have been known to frequent Lakeland for nearly a century. When the swan population started to die off, upon request, England's Queen Elizabeth sent a pair of swans to the city to help it continue its tradition. 

Now that tradition is in jeopardy — that is, if people continue to hit and kill the swans that congregate around Lake Morton. 

“I hate it. This is an important tourist attraction for Lakeland, so people should be taking very good care of their swans,” said Melvin Dickover, who was out watching them on Friday afternoon in the 90 degree heat. 

“I love the swans,“ said Melvin Dickover. “They’re a nice attraction to come and watch do stuff.”

"Drive like your swans live here"

Seven swans have been hit in the past four weeks, and five were killed.

The congregation at First United Methodist Church of Lakeland is concerned, too. On its property are signs that tell drivers to “drive like your swans live here.”

Swans aren’t the only ones that have been hit, either.

“We had a pedestrian hit on the other side of the lake who was in ICU for a week," explained Kevin Cook, a spokesman for the City of Lakeland. "So we’re looking for safety enhancements for all Lake Morton users. That includes for wildlife and our people.” 

He said the jogger is still in the hospital recovering. 

Traffic study ongoing

The city is currently conducting a traffic study around Lake Morton. Approximately 60 swans live there, along with other wildlife. It’s also where joggers, bicyclists, and families congregate. 

“We’re looking at the number of automobiles that drive around Lake Morton Drive. We’re looking at turning movements and we’re looking at speed,” Cook said. “It looks as if all the incidents are distracted drivers. It doesn’t look as if speed is an issue.” 

During the last traffic study in 2016, Cook said about 4,600 vehicles a day occupied Lake Morton Drive. 

Cook said the traffic study will help the city determine if it should make any changes to the roadway. It has already ruled out speed bumps and making Lake Morton Drive a one-way street. 

Should the decision to make changes be made, how to fund those changes remains a question.  

“We will probably use some of our money out of public works," Cook said. "The roadway is scheduled to be repaved this fall, so perhaps we could roll something in with that.”

The two-week traffic study expected to be completed by Sept. 21. The city plans to put the study’s results on its website and allow citizens to provide input on solutions.