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Friday, January 30, 2015

Streetsblog Southeast launchs with BikeWalkLee as a partner

It's exciting to see the launch of this new Streetsblog Southeast edition, with BikeWalkLee as one of its seven partners.  It feeds directly from the BikeWalkLee Blog.  There will now be more eyes on what's going on in Lee County, giving us a broader reach, and we'll have the benefit of learning what's going on in other Southeast communities.  Put this new page in your website "favorites". 

Streetsblog USA: 1/30/15sblog_se

  A New Type of Streetsblog in St. Louis, Ohio, Texas, and the Southeast? Yep.

by 
A little more than six years ago, we launched the Streetsblog Network as a way for people across the country writing about livable streets, sustainable transportation, and smart growth to band together and share ideas. There are many wonderful things about the Streetsblog Network, but I would put this is at the top of my list: It is both profoundly local, full of people working on the nitty-gritty of street design, transit service, and planning issues in their hometowns, and broadly distributed, with hundreds of members operating in cities all over the nation.
For a long time we’ve been thinking about how to build on these strengths. And today we’re going live with a new way to channel the energy of the Streetsblog Network and broadcast it to the world.

We are launching affiliate sites that combine the work of Streetsblog Network members in four regions: St. Louis, Ohio, Texas, and the Southeast. These sites run on a different model than our other city-based Streetsblogs with full-time staff. Each Streetsblog affiliate syndicates material from several blogs in its region and runs a daily dose of headlines to satisfy the universal craving for morning news. Have a look. (Doesn’t it blow your mind to see the words “Streetsblog Texas” in a site banner?)

streetsblog_ohiosblog_se
streetsblog_texassblog_stl

Our partners in this endeavor are volunteers writing in their spare time, independent media entrepreneurs, and people working at non-profit advocacy organizations and academic institutions. By running their work in this format, on the Streetsblog platform, we aim to help build their audience both nationally and in their home regions.
The geographic scope of most of these sites is bigger than the usual Streetsblog city-based beat, but the writers are addressing overlapping issues — a Paleolithic state DOT, for instance, or city leadership that struggles to get Complete Streets right. We believe there will be strength in numbers like there’s been with the national Streetsblog Network.


For readers, we hope these sites will unearth stories that might have been overlooked before. So much good stuff comes over the wire of the Streetsblog Network, which now collects feeds from more than 400 member blogs, we just can’t highlight all of it. The new format should bring more of this reporting and commentary to the surface for our audience.

For Streetsblog, putting together these affiliate sites has enabled us to reconnect and strengthen ties with partners doing excellent work in regions we want to pay closer attention to. We’re grateful to the Summit Foundation, whose support made this project happen (and which continues to fund training sessions where Streetsblog editors and Streetsblog Network members trade advice about how to make an impact on streets and transportation policy using online media). Streetsblog USA Editor Angie Schmitt has been our point person and wrangler as we’ve put this all together.

So, today is the first official day of publication for Streetsblog St. Louis, Streetsblog Texas, Streetsblog Ohio, and Streetsblog Southeast. These sites are a collaborative effort drawing from the work of the following partners. Huge thanks to all of them for taking this leap with us....[note: only included Streetsblog Southeast below.].

Streetsblog Southeast (mostly Atlanta, Charlotte, and Florida north of Miami):
A really talented bunch. We can’t wait to see where things go from here.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

LESSONS FROM THE ROAD: BFC Steve shares five key insights from a year of Bicycle Friendly Community visits



If you're a member of the League of American Bicyclists, you received the Winter 2015 "American Bicyclist" magazine this week, which includes a great article by Bicycle Friendly Community Specialist, Steve Clark, who recently visited SWFL to help local leaders create more bicycle-friendly places.  Based on his visits to 77 communities across the country last year, he shares his five key insights from these trips, which adds to the wealth of insights we gained from his recent visits to Sanibel, Cape Coral, Bonita Springs, and the upcoming visit to Fort Myers next week. (See the link to our Jan. 18th blog story: Reflections on national Bicycle Friendly Communities expert, Steve Clark's week in Lee County.

American Bicyclist Magazine, Winter 2015 (published by the League of American Bicyclists).

Below are a few excerpts from the article.  I've included the headings for the 5 key insights, but you'll need to read the article to see those details.  What I have included here are his important insights about advocates, appropriately titled, "Hey Advocates: Be Bold!"  Thanks, Steve for the inspiration and motivation.

LESSONS FROM THE ROAD: BFC Steve shares five key insights from a year of Bicycle Friendly Community visits
by Steve Clark
Steve Clark at Sanibel Bicycle Club's meeting
Excerpts below:
It's official: The League reached 100 visits to communities across the country in 2014, helping local leaders create more bicycle-friendly places for their residents. I completed 77 of those visits myself, so, as you can image, I have a lot of lessons to share. Here's some of what I learned.  [Note below are just the "headings"of his 5 key insights...click here to read the article on p. 36-39
Below I've included his full insights on #4--advocates.

1.  BUILDING BLOCKS MUST BE MADE OF STRONG MATERIAL
2.  THREE LEGS DO NOT MAKE A STOOL
3.  IT’S NOT WHAT THE CITY CAN DO FOR BIKING BUT WHAT BIKING CAN DO FOR THE CITY
4.  HEY ADVOCATES: BE BOLD!
5.  MAKE THE BEST OPTION THE EASIEST OPTION


Focus on #4-  HEY ADVOCATES: BE BOLD!  [Steve's insights in their entirety]
When I was Bicycle Coordinator in Boulder, Colorado, I secretly helped to start an advocacy group so that I could be more effective in my position. I needed the advocates to be bolder than me to allow for incremental change to occur. In a nut shell: their job was to make me look moderate. 

There is, of course, a fine line between being bold and being crazy — but it seems to me that far too many groups are so far from this line that they're not providing the support or friendly agitation that staff need to get the job done. When I go into a city I look for signs of healthy tension; if the bike organization leaders have only positive things to say, and yet it’s clear that conditions for bicycling and walking are far from ideal, something is wrong. The relationship is further compromised if the advocates are dependent on contracts with the public agencies. It’s hard to be an effective voice when speaking out could hurt the operating budget of an organization. 

On the other hand, advocates need to be quick to write letters of thanks and promote the positive as much as possible. If staff only hear complaints, that can be demoralizing. The key is to be respectfully relentless and to truly understand that your job is to reflect community values of good health, a vibrant economy, clean environment and transportation choices. Who could argue with any of that?

 Well, the reality is if you're doing anything to change the status quo, people will argue with it. And, let’s face it, most of us don’t really like conflict and the first sign of any opposition makes us fearful and we may feel like backing off. But opposition should be viewed as a positive sign. It truly should be seen as the best barometer that you are making a difference.  And quite often, it's only because of opposition that more people get involved and begin to understand what's at stake.

 I’ve gone places where a road diet has gone in and, despite reducing crashes and increasing bicycling, certain groups became mobilized and were able to get political leaders to retreat. But then that led to better mobilization among advocates and a backlash for the politicians who caved in to the “I like going fast in my car” crowd. The one step backward led to two or three steps forward. So again, be bold and embrace opposition as a sign you're doing something that will make a difference.


Action Alert: BoCC votes Feb. 3rd on proposal to extend impact fee reductions


On Tuesday, February 3rd the Lee County Commissioners will be casting a critical vote setting the future direction of the County’s Impact Fee Program. Much is at stake for advocates of complete streets and county taxpayers in this decision, so plan to share your views with commissioners at the Feb. 3rd meeting or before. There will be an opportunity for public comment beginning at 9:30 a.m. in the County Commission Chambers. There will also be a public hearing on this proposal on March 3rd prior to final Board action, so there will be a second opportunity to participate.  Click here for BikeWalkLee's Jan. 29th letter to Commissioners urging them to vote to return impact fees to the full 100% rate, as modified by the Duncan Report updates.

Why do impact fees matter?
Lee County’s Impact Fee Program was established in 1990 to provide the revenue needed to pay the capital costs imposed on a community by the thousands of new residents locating in Lee County each year and the new businesses that are necessary to satisfy their needs. The concept behind the plan then as now is that ...Growth Should Pay for Growth. They are basically user fees, and the road impact fees are very similar to gas taxes. They are used exclusively to pay transportation costs to satisfy the cost of new infrastructure within the larger district area of the new homes or businesses.

What do Lee County’s Impact Fees Pay for?
· Our New Schools
· Our New or upgraded roadways, including bike and pedestrian facilities
· Our Community and Regional Parks
· Our EMS and Fire Services

What's at stake for bike/ped world?
· Road impact fees are a significant source of funds for bike/ped improvements, both as part of roadway projects and as stand-alone bike/ped projects, and any reduction in impact fees has an adverse impact on funds available for these improvements.

· According to LeeDOT's 1/16/15 report to Commissioner Mann detailing the list of completed transportation projects funded with road impact fees from 2000 to present, 38% of bike/ped facilities during this period were funded with impact fees.

· Funding for the County's #1 priority, the Estero Blvd. Improvement project, a major roadway upgrade featuring bike/ped /transit improvements, could be jeopardized or further delayed due to the shortfall in transportation dollars, that will be further exacerbated if impact fees are not fully restored.

· For stand-alone, retrofit bike/ped projects, the County's funding formula directs 5% of impact fee revenues to these BPAC list projects. The past two years of 80% impact fee reduction has resulted in a loss of $800 K for BPAC projects--a loss of almost 50% of the overall funding formula for retrofit projects. Currently, BAPC has $58 M worth of bike/ped prioritized projects waiting to be funded, and at the current rate of spending [an average of $1 M/year over past 10 years], it will take 50 more years to implement the approved plan.

· The loss of road impact fees also directly affects the Palomino Rd. shared use path project. In April, 2014, the BoCC approved a cooperative financing arrangement whereby road impact fees paid to the City of Fort Myers by the residents in communities along Palomino Lane will be set aside for this project. If the impact fees return to 100% level, $500 K will be available from impact fees to go towards this $1.9 M project. Without full impact fee rates, it will be decades before funds are sufficient to construct this needed and approved project.

BikeWalkLee's Position 

(Click here to read BikeWalkLee's Jan. 29th letter to Commissioners)
· BikeWalkLee has steadfastly opposed the suspension or reduction in impact fees over the past five years, opposed the Board's 80% reduction in impact fees in March 2013, urged the County Commissioners to end the reduction in Feb. 2014, and now urges the Board to reestablish the 100% impact fee program, as modified by the recommendations of the "Duncan Report".

· The Road Impact Fee Update Report (aka "Duncan Report") was released on 1/27/15 and sets the new 100% rate, which is a 4% reduction from the previous 100% rate.

· BikeWalkLee urges the Board to accept the Duncan reports (road and school impact fee update studies) and to set a public hearing for March 3rd to adopt the ordinance related to putting into effect the new impact fee schedules in the Duncan reports.

· BikeWalkLee is pleased that this draft ordinance includes language broadening the definition of what road impact fee funds can be used for, providing more flexibility to use funds for bike/ped improvements and bus pull out lane improvements that accommodate vehicle trips by providing alternative travel modes. This language change begins to move the road impact fee into a more multi-modal transportation approach, as BikeWalkLee has long advocated.

· BikeWalkLee urges the Board to take NO ACTION on the proposal to set a public hearing to adopt an ordinance that would reduce the impact fee rates below the new 100% rates, as established by the Duncan reports. The full cost of the impacts caused by the developments (i.e. the 100% rate) should be collected.

 BikeWalkLee's position is based on the following beliefs:
  • Growth should pay for growth  
  • Infrastructure costs should be a shared responsibility--residents, visitors, and developers
  • Quality of life is key to Lee County's future and economic success, and requires smart investments 
  • Loss of revenues for needed transportation infrastructure jeopardizes the goal of a safe and balanced multi-modal transportation system; and 
  • The costs of unmet infrastructure needs will invariably shift to Lee Co taxpayers .
What do I need to do?

1. Before Tuesday, February 3rd call, email and/or write the Commissioners to tell them you want the Impact Fees returned to the 100% level on March 13th, when the reduction is set to expire.

2. Write a Letter to the Editor of the News Press expressing your support of the 100% Impact Fee Program.

3. Speak at the Feb. 3rd (9:30 a.m.) County Commission meeting in support of the 100% Impact Fee rate.

4. Speak at the March 3rd (9:30 a.m.) County Commission public hearing before final vote on the impact fee rates.

Opportunities for Communicating with Individual Commissioners: (Write a letter, an email or call County Commissioners)

o John Manning: dist1@leegov.com, 533-2224
o Cecil Pendergrass: dist2@leegov.com, 533-2227
o Larry Kiker: dist3@leegov.com, 533-2223
o Brian Hamman: dist4@leegov.com, 533-2226
o Frank Mann: dist5@leegov.com, 533-2225 [NOTE: only commissioner who voted against the impact fee reductions.]

Letters to the editor:
News-Press:
· submit online: http://www.news-press.com/section/editor_letter
· submit by email: mailbag@news-press.com
· or any local/community paper that publishes letters to the editor

Background Links:


Cyclist fights ticket for using full lane, and wins

Important court decision yesterday in Lee County, in the ongoing effort to get law enforcement and the public to recognize cyclists' rights. Good work, Guy, Dan, and attorney Robert Coleman. Thanks for the great media coverage, Janine.

News-Press, Jan. 28, 2015 (front page story)
By Janine Zeitlin, jzeitlin@news-press.com
Be sure to watch the video interview with Guy Hackett and coverage of the court hearing. 

Story Highlights
  • The League of American Bicyclists directs cyclists to take a full lane when lane is too narrow
  • Bike commuter is "scared for his life" when riding at the edge of busy roadway
    Bicycle commuter Guy Hackett is found not guilty for failing to ride to right curb during an appearance in traffic court in Fort Myers.  The Lee County Sheriff's Office issued him the ticket on Pondella Rd. in North Fort Myers.  (photo by News-Press)
Just before 8 a.m. Wednesday, Guy Hackett rolled his bike into his fifth-floor office at the Lee County Clerk of Courts, where he works as a database analyst. For a decade, he's been commuting by bike from his Cape Coral home.

In that time, he's drifted from using the sidewalks to the full lane, where he feels safer, but some deputies don't like it.

The lanky 53-year-old swapped a neon windbreaker for a dress shirt. He inhaled deeply and fumbled with his tie. He'd been thinking about this day for months. In October, a Lee sheriff's corporal wrote him a ticket for "slow bike, fail to ride to right curb." Hackett had been riding in the full lane during his commute along Pondella Road in North Fort Myers.

This was the first time Hackett had been ticketed, but he counted four times in which deputies had ordered him to move over.

Hackett reviewed his arguments in his head. That he had too many close calls with vehicles when hugging the edge of the lane. That, while Florida law directs cyclists to the right, it also allows them to use the full lane in certain cases, like when it's not safe to ride at the edge. And that where he was pulled over was too narrow to ride safely alongside wide pick-up trucks or vehicles towing boats.

"If this goes against me, I don't know what I'm going to do," Hackett worried. "When I ride at the edge, I'm scared for my life."

As more cyclists take to the roads, the rift over how much of the road should be shared with riders has been hotly contested, even when laws exist that define their rights, though not as precisely as some lawyers would like.
The League of American Bicyclists, a national advocacy and educational group, directs cyclists to share a lane with a vehicle if it is wide enough, ideally about 14 feet. "If the lane is not wide enough to share, 'take the lane' by riding in the middle," it recommends.

Hackett, who holds a pair of instructor-level bike safety certifications, measured Pondella where he was ticketed at 13.5 feet.

"People on bikes need to ride several feet into the lane to be visible to other motorists, be clear of right edge obstacles, including grates and debris, and to be clear of the pathways of opening doors of parked cars," said Carolyn Szczepanski, of The League of American Bicyclists. "To operate safely, riders also need to have at least three feet of clearance from faster traffic."

But law enforcement worry that cyclists who use the full lane are slowing traffic and jeopardizing the safety of motorists and the cyclists. Bonita bike commuter Ryan Scofield has been stopped by Collier County sheriff's deputies while using a full lane in Naples. Scofield captured being pulled over on video, which spurred discussions between cyclists and the sheriff's office.

"Some may agree or disagree with him, but we have nothing to refute that he doesn't have the right to take that lane," said Commander Bill McDonald of the Collier sheriff's office.

There is a statute that disallows impeding traffic, but it only applies to motor vehicles, McDonald noted.

The law allows riders to use the full lane when lanes are of "substandard width," McDonald said, though that width isn't defined. A bill filed earlier this month may change that. The agency has increased training on bike regulations in the past year, he said, because of the growing number of Collier cyclists on the roads and Scofield's experiences.

On Wednesday, Hackett tightened his Asics and crossed the street from his office to the Lee County Justice Center in downtown Fort Myers.
Hackett heading to work after commuting by bike (photo by News-Press)

He joined Dan Moser of BikeWalkLee and Robert Coleman, a Fort Myers attorney and cyclist, who had volunteered to help Hackett in traffic court. The trio discussed the case in hushed voices. To Moser, it was clear Hackett should win. He's been pushing law enforcement to recognize cyclists' rights for years. Coleman stressed the law leaves too much gray. Who determines when it's safe to move to the right?

Hearing Officer Mary Jacobs called the case.

"How does your client plead?"

"Not guilty," Coleman responded.

Cpl. Chad Heinemann explained why he gave Hackett a ticket.

"The rider failed to move as far right of the land as possible to allow normal flow of traffic...It was causing several vehicles to almost slow down and stop."

Coleman motioned to dismiss the ticket.

"My client believed that because of the potential for being buzzed or hit by those moving objects that it was safest for him to ride in the middle," the lawyer said.

Jacobs paused, then denied the motion. Coleman presented photos, including ones of large trucks occupying most of the Pondella lane.

"Any vehicle beyond a mid-sized car cannot pass me and give me the three feet possible," Hackett argued. "If someone gets hurt, it's me."

Nearly an hour into arguments, a man from the audience groused. "All this for a ticket?"
Jacobs removed her glasses to study the photos and law.

"I looked at the conditions of the road to make a determination whether or not it would have been safe for the cyclist to be utilizing his bicycle to the far right of the right lane and I don't believe that would be safe for the bicyclist," she said. "I find Mr. Hackett not guilty."

Hackett offered a thumbs-up to Coleman. The decision only saved him a $61.50 ticket, but it wasn't about that money. (The News-Press couldn't find out if this decision might impact the Lee County Sheriff's Office approach to Hackett or other cyclists who use the full lane. The agency has a policy against commenting to The News-Press.)

"I know they don't like it," Hackett said, referring to deputies. "But I'm hoping they realize I'm doing everything legally."


Florida law on when cyclists can use the full lane
  • Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic...shall ride in the lane marked for bicycle use or, if no lane is marked for bicycle use, as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge except under any of the following situations.
  • When reasonably necessary to avoid any condition or potential conflict, including, but not limited to, a fixed or moving object, parked or moving vehicle, bicycle, pedestrian, animal, surface hazard, turn lane, or substandard-width lane, which makes it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge or within a bicycle lane. For the purposes of this subsection, a "substandard-width lane" is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and another vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.
  • When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.
  • When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.
          Source: Florida Statute


Connect with this reporter: @Janinezeitlin (Twitter).
Share and learn about ideas to make the roads safer on The News-Press Facebook page, Share the Road Florida.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

NP editorial: Cellphone driving laws need to be strengthened



Thanks to News-Press for their editorial today in support of stronger cellphone driving laws. BikeWalkLee testified before the Lee Legislative Delegation on Jan. 13th and urged our delegation to support legislation to strengthen the texting while driving law.
As our letter says:
"We believe that texting while driving and other distractions is one of the main reasons for the increasing number of pedestrians and cyclists who are killed on our roads, including the increase in the number of hit-and-run crashes.....Thus, it is critically important that the Legislature take action this year to strengthen the texting law so that texting while driving is made a primary offense. ... We urge the Lee delegation to not only support this legislation, but to champion it." Click here to read our full statement on texting while driving laws.
 
Ask your state legislative representatives to enact stronger legislation this session. Click here for contact information.
 
News-Press Editorial, Jan. 27, 2015

Anything Florida legislators can do to toughen laws on texting while driving or using a cellphone while operating a moving vehicle is a road worth traveling.

The House and Senate are each pursuing an assortment of bills this session that would make it illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to use a cellphone or other telecommunications devices while driving and also would strengthen the existing no texting law, making it a primary offense rather than a secondary one. The theory, and one that is usually supported with data from various law enforcement agencies, is young, inexperienced drivers are more prone to accidents — and certainly use their cellphones extensively. Keeping people off their phones and not distracted while driving is an ongoing challenge.

Giving more teeth to the no texting while driving law, weak when it was enacted in October 2013, also makes sense. It is a difficult law to enforce because the law only applies as a secondary offense, meaning you have to commit another violation first. Florida Highway Patrol statistics show the law is having marginal impact. From October 2013 through last December, 2,061 citations have been issued by law enforcement agencies across Florida. Only 117 were issued in Lee — with 13 the top month last September — and 25 in Collier, with just one issued in nine of the 15 months. As a local example, Cape Coral issued just 13 citations and three warnings last year, but there over 3,833 reported traffic crashes.

Our roads are a population of in-use cellphones from all age groups. Maybe the Legislature is not going far enough by limiting usage among young drivers. Maybe talking on the phone while driving should be a primary offense for all age groups. Education remains the priority. The more information drivers receive about the consequences of distracted driving, and the message takes hold, the odds of decreasing accidents improves.

The young drivers' cellphone bill does include exceptions for navigational usage and when drivers are stopped with the engine off. Making texting a primary offense gives law enforcement a fighting chance to work with an enforceable law.

Whether these bills gain much traction during the legislation session, which begins in March, remains to be seen, but they should. The state continues to grow and so do the number of drivers. Our roads are filled with distractions, and cellphones should not be among the culprits.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Cape Coral Police's new mobile signs with safety messages about cyclists

 If you live in Cape Coral, you may have noticed this new mobile sign used by Cape Coral Police Department (CCPD) as part of its effort to improve safety for cyclists in the Cape.  A big "thank you"  from BikeWalkLee to CCPD!
 
New Cape Coral Police bicycle safety message sign (with BWL Cape Rep. Steve Chupack)
 The flashing sign has three segments:
  • Give a bicycle a break
  • 3 Feet is not a cushion
  • It is a law
Sign location: just south of intersection of Gleason Parkway & Surfside Boulevard. On Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce Route near Team Aubuchon Route. Visit www.CapeCoral.net/Bicycling for complete route-by-route descriptions of 90 miles of interconnected routes.

Thank you Cape Coral Police Department for placing this moveable sign with its important highly visible safety message where it will be seen by hundreds of drivers.

Passidomo bill aims to protect cyclists, pedestrians on Fla. roads

Rep. Passidomo introduced her bill, HB 231, last week, aimed at protecting cyclists and pedestrians on Florida roads. Click here for the text of the bill, and click here to track the bill as it winds its way through the Florida Legislature. Ask your state representatives to co-sponsor and/or support HB 231. We'll keep you posted as the bill progresses, so stay tuned.


Naples Daily News: 1/26/15 article follows on Jan. 23rd News-Press, "The birth of a bill to protect cyclists, walkers," by Janine Zeitlin News-Press article
Florida Bicycle Association's Executive Director Becky Afonso voices FBA's support for bill, and hopes that some additional changes will be made as the bill moves forward.

Naples Daily News: 1/26/15, by Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster
NAPLES, Fla. - It was an accident that got Kathleen Passidomo involved.

Her law partner, Chuck Kelly, was struck by a pickup in January 2014. He broke his back, ribs and punctured a lung. The driver that hit him was cited by Naples police for improper passing.

“He is never going to be the same because he has so many injuries,” said Passidomo, a Republican state representative from Naples. “The driver of the pickup truck got nothing.”

Passidomo is hoping to change that. She filed legislation (HB 231) earlier this month aimed at protecting vulnerable users of Florida’s roadways, such as cyclists and pedestrians.

“We passed the Aaron Cohen (Life Protection) Act last year, but it was very narrow. It only applies to hit and run scenarios,” Passidomo said. “If there’s bodily injury, there’s no penalty for a driver who hits a cyclist, unless (the driver) runs away or kills them.”

Passidomo said her measure is a “common sense approach” to sharing the road.

The proposal includes provisions that permit a motorist to cross the double yellow line to provide at least three feet when passing a vulnerable user; make it a misdemeanor to harass a cyclist; and requires driver’s license exams to include testing on laws related to vulnerable users.

Jeff Michelland, a federal prosecutor and Lee County resident, worked with Passidomo to draft the legislation. Michelland, an avid cyclist, said he became interested in changing the law after a friend of his was badly injured when he was hit by a motorist in Fort Myers. The motorist, he said, was cited for careless driving.

“We were scratching our heads,” said Michelland, who worked with Tish Kelly, Chuck Kelly’s wife, and Collier Commissioner Georgia Hiller to advocate for the legislative change. “We said maybe we can do something to try to change some of this to protect cyclists and other people who use the roads.”

There were more than 460 vehicle versus bicycle crashes between 2010 and 2014, according to the Collier County Sheriff’s Office. In 2014, deputies worked 89 accidents. That’s down from 2013 when deputies worked 114 vehicle versus bicycle crashes, said Cmdr. Bill McDonald.

McDonald said the majority of those accidents were caused by a right of way violation and cyclists were at fault less often than cars.

“The problem with a bicycle crash is the cyclist is pretty much without exception on the losing side of the battle,” he said. “Most of them are going to have injuries.”

From 2010 to 2012, six states — California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Michigan and Texas — accounted for 54 percent of all cyclists’ deaths because of collisions with motor vehicles, according to an October 2014 bicycle safety report for the Governors Highway Safety Association.

“This is an issue that isn’t just local to Collier County,” said Hiller. “It’s of importance to the entire state.”


Becky Afonso, executive director of the Florida Bicycle Association, said her organization supports legislation aimed at making the roads safer for all users. While there are a few tweaks she’d like to see made to Passidomo’s bill, she said she sees it as a good first step.

“We’re hoping that some of the changes and additions make it easier to understand and go out there and enforce,” she said.

Afonso said education, particularly for drivers who aren’t cyclists, will be key to making Florida’s roads safer.
Passidomo has included several education components to her measure, including a requirement that driver education and traffic law courses provide instruction on laws relating to vulnerable users.

Tish Kelly said the past year has been a terrible one for cyclists, and it is time lawmakers take steps in 2015 to change the law.

“It has been a bloodbath this year,” she said. “It’s been (one accident) after another. It’s terrible.”

Passidomo filed the measure on Jan. 12, and it has been referred to four House committees for a hearing. As of Friday, the measure did not have a companion bill in the Senate.


From Jan. 23rd News-Press, "The birth of a bill to protect cyclists, walkers," by Janine Zeitlin

Highlights from the House proposal:
Defines the terms "vulnerable user" and "bodily injury."
Amends the 3-foot law by including any part of or attachment to the motor vehicle, anything extending from the motor vehicle, and any trailer or other thing being towed by the motor vehicle.
Makes it illegal for a person operating a vehicle who overtakes and passes a vulnerable user proceeding in the same direction to make a right turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway unless the turn can be made at a safe distance.
Permits a driver to cross a double yellow line when passing a vulnerable user in order to provide at least 3 feet.
Makes it a misdemeanor to harass, taunt or maliciously throw an object at or in the direction of a person riding a bicycle.
Defines "substandard-width lane" in bicycle regulations statute.
Increases penalties and requires mandatory court appearance for careless driving, violation of the 3-foot law; and violation of the new right-turn law, if the violation contributed to the bodily injury of a vulnerable user, and requires the law enforcement officer issuing the citation for the violation to note such information on the citation;
Mandates driver education and traffic law education courses provide instruction on laws about the rights and safety of vulnerable users.
Mandates driver license examinations include testing on laws relating to vulnerable users.
  
Click here for the text of the bill, and click here to track the bill as it winds its way through the Florida Legislature.