Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Dan Moser's Florida Weekly Column: Speed Kills
January 12, 2011
On the road, speed kills. And by speed I don’t mean 100 mph. Consider this: a pedestrian hit by a car going 30 mph has an almost 50 percent chance of being killed. At 40 mph, that possibility goes up to an 85 percent chance of death. The short- and long-term pain and suffering of those who don’t die is another matter altogether. We all know that in our neighborhoods, commercial centers and other areas where there’s plenty of pedestrian traffic, vehicle speeds between 30 and 40 mph are common, if not higher. Tamiami Trail and Palm Beach Boulevard, both popular commercial corridors, are among our most dangerous roads for pedestrians and cyclists.
Readers of this column know that one of my frequent criticisms of the way our roadways have been developed over the past decades is that any that’s been “improved” has been transformed into a highway rather than roadway. The distinction, from my perspective as a driver, cyclist and pedestrian, is that highways are built to move motor vehicles as quickly as possible, akin to a sewer pipe. Thus, by design, anyone other than those inside cars and trucks is subjected to a high degree of risk.
That being said, if you’re concerned about speeding in your neighborhood or nearby roads, be aware that if enough drivers are indeed operating above the posted limit, the speed limit might just be raised. If a “speed study” is conducted on a specific roadway segment there’s a good chance that rather than addressing the cause of the problem the answer could be to raise the limit to the speed at which 85 percent of drivers are operating, based on the premise that this must be the safe speed since so many drive at that speed.
John LaPlante, a recent winner of a prestigious award presented by his peers at the Institute of Traffic Engineers, has seen the results of the “car sewer” model and thinks there’s a better way. Specific to speeds and the 85th percentile rule, Mr. LaPlante stated in his acceptance speech: “We need to remember that the 85th percentile speed is only the speed at which 85 percent of our motorists feel most comfortable driving. It has nothing to do with the comfort of pedestrians and bicyclists and very little to do with safety.”
We will all benefit if his fellow engineers take heed to his insight, something the Bonita Springs City Council did when it decided to ignore its recommendation to raise the speed limit along a short stretch of Imperial Boulevard.
This weekend, Jan. 15 and 16, the annual Tour de Cape (www.active.com/running/ cape-coral-fl/tour-de-cape-2011) takes place and includes a 5K road race on Saturday and bike rides from 15 miles to 100 miles on Sunday. The following Saturday, Jan. 22, the Calusa Nature Center hosts its Calusa Bug Chase 5K (www.ftmyerstrackclub.com), a run that uses the center’s trails and boardwalks. And get ready for the Edison Fest 5K on Feb. 19 and Hootersto Hooters Half-Marathon on March 6.
Over the past year, BikeWalkLee has been part of a number of projects and policies to improve our community’s livability. Significant progress has been made toward the implementation of the county’s “complete streets” policy, a process that requires a lot of direct involvement and follow-up. With the future of programs and policies similar to our “complete streets” initiative at risk at the state and federal levels due to the incoming political power structure, both Lee County government and our Metropolitan Planning Organization are to be commended for their commitment to making it happen here. For more about BikeWalkLee’s 2010 achievements, click here.
Until next time, I’ll look for you on the roads and trails.
— Dan Moser is a league cycling instructor/ trainer and program manager for Florida Bicycle Association who cycles, runs and walks regularly for transportation, recreation and fitness. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 334- 6417.