Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Political Correctness Keeps Florida the Deadliest State for Cyclists, Peds

Florida is the deadliest state for cyclists and pedestrians, according to the government group that tracks fatalities across the U.S.
In 2008, 11.1 percent of pedestrians and 17.4 percent of cyclists killed in the U.S. were killed in Florida where 6 percent of the nation's population lives according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
This news reported by USA Today, said that the top four of the 10 most dangerous metropolitan areas for walking are in Florida. Add to that, Florida has been in the top three in bicycle and pedestrian fatalities every year since.
The article goes on to state that "the statistics perplex state officials," and that there are many factors involved.  Among the possible factors they cite are, torrid population growth, tourism, climate and behavior.
An alliance of the Transportation for America and the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership --conducted a study that found pedestrians in Florida and nationwide are endangered by the country's shift from development clustered around traditional streets to wide, high-speed roads designed to move thousands of vehicles-- a much more reasonable analysis than the mock hand-wringing, shoulder shrugging political correctness that the DOT is offering.
Marianne Trussell, chief safety officer for Florida's Department of Transportation said, "The roadways aren't as dangerous as the (study) would have made it seem," she says. "It's not the roads. The roads are just sitting there by themselves."
The statement in itself is ridiculous. It was only in 2004 that I recall a long battle cyclists had with the state department of transportation to increase the width of Route A1A so that cyclists could feel safe riding on one of the most scenic but also narrow roads in the U.S.
For one, DOT officials refused to force private property holders to give up two to three feet of their crab grass covered easements to form the bike space. And those holdouts stubbornly withheld their precious little spaces from the public good, preventing the bike lanes from being built.
Add to that a series of roadways that are narrow everywhere, and the propensity all across the U.S. to drive too fast, the lack of enforcement, and the total absence of penalties for hitting and killing people in the U.S.
But what other little factor could be causing these accidents? I remember I used to go down to Delray Beach every March to visit my grandparents where I would rent a bike from the local bike shop and ride to my heart's content along A1A.
My grandmother told me that the majority of drivers were elderly, and many of them could not see. She was heartbroken when her own beau (my grandfather had died) was killed by a head-on collision with another driver who was, she said, "too old to drive."
The fact that not one of the factors mentioned in the list offered by "experts" includes the ages of drivers shows that they are not serious about solving the problem of increased fatalities in Florida. 
It is no secret that Florida is a retirement state.
Currently, Florida only has a minimal train system that runs north to south along the Atlantic Coast. But the state needs fleets of mini buses for local transport, as well as good city buses for easy on, easy off access. 
If the groups involved trying to solve this problem, including the DOT, and the Center for Education and Research in Safety, based in Kalamazoo, Mich. who have worked with more than 80 Florida cities-- were politically honest instead of politically correct, they would acknowledge that the lack of any public transit infrastructure that offers people who can't see well or react quickly a transportation alternative is one of the real causes of their problem. 
The town of Saint Petersburg did take matters into their own hands. They had an out of control problem with motorist-pedestrian collisions, 203 in 2000 when their community was identified as the most dangerous in Florida by the Surface Transportation Policy project. 
Using a combination of $40 million in grants and other incentives, the town built over 100 miles of bike lanes and trails, installed sidewalks where none existed, improved crosswalks, and installed new flashing lights (for weak sighted eyes maybe?) for traffic signals.
In 2008, collisions were down to 89--a notable achievement. 

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jen:

It's not fair to single out the old people who shouldn't be driving. Seniors are only part of the problem.

The car is part of the culture in FL -- and regrettably, many motorists -- of all ages -- don't consider cyclists to be vehicles. Or even people.

There are some communities like Miami Beach which are fairly bike friendly. There are lots of bikes and considerate motorists who will yield the right of way to cyclists. Bike paths and dedicated bike lanes help, too.

But in many parts of the state, bikers are considered a nuisance. It's both unfair and unsafe.

In addition to bike lanes, state officials need to proactively place "Share The Road" -type signage to remind cars they bikers are vehicles, too. But they also need to crack down on motorists who exhibit aggressive behavior toward cyclists. And publicize those cases.

Changing the car culture to be more accepting of bikes is a tall order in any community. Making the case for safety is especially daunting in a state where motorcycle helmets are legally regarded as an optional accessory.

-dz

Jen Benepe said...

I don't think I did single out seniors. What I did say if you read the post again, is that the narrow roads, bad drivers, lack of enforcement are the number one problems.
BUT I said ALSO the fact that there are a lot of seniors in the state and no public transportation--like there is in places like NYC--is a major factor. It is not the only factor but definitely a bigfactor.
Cyclists would be considered less of a nuisance if there was room made for them on the road. But the state needs to get real about how it treats the problems and deal with them honestly. So far they seem to have their heads literally buried in the sand.
Anyway, thanks for your comments: do you by any chance live in Florida?
JB

central park bike tours said...

I agree.